Through extensive research and experimentation, the seven projects in this year's North Laurel High School Science Fair showed initiative and interest in how the world we know can be improved and reserved.

Branching out from the usual in-school science fair, this year's event featured an evening viewing of the students' efforts that were judged to move on to regional competition.

Whether it be soil erosion or natural cleaning products, 14 female students put their scientific minds to work to test their theory for their individual projects.

Callie Wagers was one of three students whose project centered on essential oils and how they can be used as an alternative to the industrial cleaners used in hospitals and other public places.

"We compared tea tree oil and lemon oil to bleach and regular hand soap," she explained. "We found that the essential oils grow a less resistant bacteria and cleaned just as well as the other cleaners. But the essential oils don't release as much into the air as the industrial cleaners."

Wagers and two other students, Kelsi Howard and Arilyn Kennedy, teamed together on the project. Wagers said she has always liked science and that Howard and Kennedy are medical students at the Center for Innovation, which exemplified their interest in the project, entitled "Disinfecting with Natural Cleaner."

During their judging, the three students explained their research and their results.

Charlotte Blevins, an eighth grade student, took the top award with her project on "The Mystery of Mist." Her project compared the use of a regular fan to a mist fan.

"I was going over ideas and reading different articles about mist fans," she said. "I found that the mist is better for your skin than the regular fans because it keeps your skin hydrated."

Blevins said she had always enjoyed science and that involvement in the science fair would also enhance her public speaking skills. She plans on pursuing that interest even further once out of high school and is considering a career in either science or engineering.

"I'd really like to go into aerospace engineering," she said.

"The Future of Plastic" was another project that was selected for higher level competition. That project involved using banana peels to make bioplastic. "How Genetics can be used in Ivory Poaching" was another project that described the demise of animals for ivory and how genetic research can be used to identify when poachers illegally kill those creatures in order to pocket money for ivory. Pollution, a constant concern for environmentalists, was also one of the topics of this year's science project, as was one on soil erosion.

How enzymes can cause deterioration of teeth was another experiment presented during last week's science fair. That project described how enzymes used to break down some substances can also be a deterrence in maintaining others.

Judges for the event were hard pressed to come to a final decision with the wide variety of the topics and the research involved in each one. Time after time, one or more of the judges went to the display to double check some of the projects and verbage. But the final decisions came with "The Mystery of Mist" taking the grand prize. Joining in to compete in regional competition were the projects on plastic and disinfectants.

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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