A roar of approval rang out April 13 at Plumas Charter School’s Pioneer campus in Quincy as the winners of the STEAM Fair were announced. The competition explored science, technology, engineering, art and math for PCS students in grades 4-12. Photos by Roni Java

Scientific curiosity, creativity highlighted at charter school’s STEAM Fair

Winners of the STEAM Fair’s top awards are, from left, sixth- grader Nathan Carnes, Best of Show for his plasma project; eighth-grader Ciera Hymas, First Place for her osmosis entry; ninth-grader Emma Leff, Second Place for her osmosis project; and eighth-grader Emily Fullerton, Third Place for her copper plating entry.

Shouts of joy and applause rang out when Plumas Charter School’s Quincy site awarded four top prizes at its April 13 STEAM Fair. The competition featured projects that explored students’ questions in science, technology, engineering, art and math.

“Very good job! I’m really impressed with all of your entries,” Travis Rubke, fair judge, told the students during the award ceremony. “And for next year, here are tips about what I’ll be looking for — lots of data and multiple trials.”

The STEAM Fair’s top honors went to PCS sixth-grader Nathan Carnes who received Best of Show for his plasma electricity orb pro; eighth-grader Ciera Hymas with first place for her osmosis project; ninth-grader Emma Leff with second place for her osmosis entry; and eighth-grader Emily Fullerton who earned third place for her project on copper plating metals with pennies.

Rubke was one of three judges who had their work cut out for them at the fair. A retired 30-year Greenville High School science teacher, he was joined by Carey Russell of Indian Falls and Kari O’Reilly who runs the Plumas-Sierra 4H program.

“The best part of judging this fair is watching the students get excited and seeing them share information about their projects with one another,” O’Reilly said, moving from one display to another as the judging was coming to a close.

Entries covered such diverse areas of inquiry as:

Generating wireless electricity with a Tesla Coil; asking if simply changing the color of an image might affect people’s emotional reaction to it (apparently yes, it does); and testing the “3-Second Rule” about germ-safe eating by dropping food on a kitchen floor, an asphalt road and a classroom floor (oh yum).

Fifth-grader Xander McGill adds baking soda to his erupting volcano science project that only awaits the vinegar solution to send foaming “lava” cascading down his clay construction.

Other entries tested creative hypotheses about electromagnetism; mold; mildew; the effect of shooting arcs to successfully sink basketballs; how to construct a plasma ball to discharge electricity and someday power electronic devices (don’t we all need that); whether or not seventh-grade boys and girls have different resting pulse rates (girls rated higher); and, of course, a cool baking soda and vinegar volcano, complete with tiny figures who do and don’t escape the eruption flow.

A particularly fascinating query tested to find out how quickly people assume things. (Hint, younger test subjects were much faster to judge innocence or guilt in the test scenario, compared with adults.)

“I went through three of these fairs when I was kid and I loved them!” said a smiling and harried Bob McGill as he made the rounds of approximately 50-plus exhibits at the Pioneer School campus.

McGill is a volunteer with the Mountain Valley Parents Organization whose children attend the charter program. He put together this year’s STEAM Fair for the fourth- through 12th-graders from PCS’s Quincy site and is already planning next year’s competition, so get those scientific inquiries ready.