Pam Dudding-Burch
Contributing writer

Judges were selected from Va. Tech’s engineering students to determine the winners of the Science Fair.

With the wheels now rolling from 2016, Craig County Middle School continued to host its Annual Science Fair.


Samuel Foster, an advocate for science, assisted Tina VanBuren in starting a pilot program for the Science Fair last year. Foster is the Director of Instruction, Testing and Accountability and VanBuren is the Science Teacher.

It was the first Science Fair that Craig County Schools has had in over 20 years and approximately 40 students participated. They continued the task of helping the students have an avenue of competition and learning that could highlight some of their possible future visions.

“Craig County may not be known for vast opportunities in hands-on science activities, but more are becoming available,” stated two senior students, Olivia Menezes and Seth Helm.

VanBuren, the teacher for the Gifted and Talented Program, and Middle School Teacher Stacey Crowder have organized several events over the past year to help advance the middle school science program.

Tyler VanDyke (6th Grade – 1st Place) “The Effects of Voltage on Electo-Chemical Processes” was the name of his project.

“The purpose of the Science Fair is for the students to be able to use resources and problem- solving technique process,” VanBuren said. “This helps students prepare for the future by teaching them that Scientists do not work alone or in isolation, as most work in collaboration with others to reach a final goal or task.”

“Through collaboration with Crowder and VanBuren, and under the direction of Tim Miller, Educational Coordinator for Mountain Castles, Middle School Students were given a field day of testing where extensive lab experiments took place,” Menezes and Helm explained. Also, Miller brought together a source of local community business representatives and volunteers that led and directed each station.

At each station students became ‘scientists’ where they conducted water quality and conservation type experiments. Immediately following the field day of testing, the Pre-AP groups performed data analysis on the results to draw definitive conclusions. “Activities like these help promote scientific thinking, planning, designing and problem solving,” Menezes and Helm agreed.

Kim Lester, the pre-college outreach program coordinator at Virginia Tech, worked with VanBuren and selected engineering students to be the judges for the science fair.

Lester previously worked in International Programs in the College of Engineering and taught first through eighth grade. She focused on math and science in Albuquerque, New Mexico and also worked as a veterinarian for seven years after receiving her degree from Cornell University.

After several hours of listening to presentations, discussing thoroughly with the judging panel, and revisiting the display boards, the judges selected the top three winners.

The students that participated in the science fair shared that they enjoyed learning the scientific method through actual experimentation. Many of them, especially the winners, stated that they are eager to compete again in the coming years and learn more about the things that interest them the most.

Hunter Ashley (Eighth Grade – 1st Place) shows the judges his project, “Raising an American Flag”.

The topics the students could choose from were: Physical Science, Earth Space Science, Applied Science and Chemistry. Additionally, the components that came with the problem solving were conducting research, planning, designing, creating and building, testing, producing data and performing data analysis, and drawing conclusions.

For the second year in a row, the fair has been successful in assisting students to be creative and more importantly, more curious about science.

“Students need to be allowed to investigate the world around them without having to complete a worksheet or take a test,” Foster shared. “Science projects are a way for students to examine the world around them and to dig deeper into concepts that spark their interest.” He added that many people who go into science as an adult, do so because they participated in a science fair as a youth.

“A special thanks go out to Crowder, Van Buren and Fred Moler (Science Teacher) for all the hands-on activities they provided during their weekly science classes in promoting scientific minds,” Menezes and Helm said.

Science Fair Award Winners 2016-17 Craig County Middle School:

Sixth Grade: First – Tyler VanDyke – “The Effects of Voltage on Electo-Chemical Processes”

Second- Sara Jones – “What Substance Melts Ice the Fastest?”

Third – Savannah Cady – “Water From Thin Air: Experimenting with Dew Traps”

Tyler said, “I was happy that they did it again,” and seemed eager to conduct further experiments in coming years.

Seventh Grade: First – Abby Price – “Dissolving a Milk Brick”

Second – Lucas Taylor – “Tough Eggs”

Third – Mason Huffman – “Will the Density Affect the Flow of a Liquid?”

Abby mentioned that she struggled with understanding the PH scale but figured it out while working on her project.

Eighth Grade: First – Hunter Ashley – “Raising an American Flag”

Second – Clayton Owens – “Putting Ketchup on a Plate”

Third – Autumn Hutchison – “Taking a Selfie”

“The purpose of science is lost when students are not given a chance to learn on their own and test theories they may have about everyday things,” VanBuren shared. “I will say that I am very proud of each student for the hard work they put forth in producing an exceptional project.”

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