Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 21
For the love of scienceStudents at Pioneer Valley High School spend their summer vacations studying science
BY AMY ASMAN
Is expensive name-band sunscreen any better at protecting skin from the sun’s rays than a $5 bargain brand? That’s the question Xavier Aguilar, a junior at Pioneer Valley High School, is attempting to answer in teacher Riccardo Magni’s Summer Science Institute.
For the last three summers, Magni has helped small groups of students develop in-depth science projects to be entered in the Santa Barbara County Science Fair.
This is the first year the students—eight in all—are doing individual projects.
“It’s a big deal to me because it’s like I’m teaching eight different classes,” Magni told the Sun. “But it’s great for the kids. They’re working on things that they’re excited about, which, to me, is key.”
All of the projects will be entered in the high school division of the county science fair, which takes place at the UC Santa Barbara campus on March 7 and 8 of 2013. Magni is confident at least one of his students will make it to the statewide science fair at the University of Southern California in May.
“I told them, ‘One of you is going to the state science fair,’” Magni said. “I know they can do it. I know they can.”
Last year, two of the Summer Science Institute projects served as alternates for the state fair. In 2010, Magni’s students were the first from the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District to enter projects in the county fair in 56 years.
“I wanted [the students] to have the chance to do this, but the only time I could do it was during the summer,” Magni said. “It’s too hard to do it after school—for me and for the students. This way they can really focus on their projects and not be worried about homework, tests, or if they want to go watch a football game.”
Projects can be entered in one of two categories: physical science or life science.
Aguilar’s project is in the realm of physical science. He tested more than a dozen different brands of sunscreen with varying prices and levels of sun protection factor (SPF), from SPF 4 to SPF 100-plus.
To test each sunscreen’s effectiveness, Aguilar spread approximately 1.5 grams of the substance on sheets of plastic wrap stretched over metal burner stands.
“It’s about how much sunscreen you apply to your face,” Aguilar said of the sample size.
Under the stands, he placed UVB probes to measure how much the sunscreen was able to block the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
According to Aguilar’s data, the two most effective brands were a 30 SPF sunscreen from a generic brand called Fruit of the Earth®, and a 30 SPF sunscreen from Neutrogena®. Aguilar said the high-SPF sunscreens weren’t any more effective than their 30 SPF counterparts.
It gets even more interesting when price is considered: The generic brand 30 SPF costs approximately five cents per gram less than the Neutrogena® brand.
Aguilar said, in the future, he’d like to research whether waterproof sunscreen
Junior Stephany Rubio is studying how effective the school’s classroom and bathroom cleaners are at killing bacteria. She placed samples of the cleaner in Petri dishes and monitored them for E. coli.
According to Rubio, at two ounces of cleaner per gallon of water, the solution is so diluted it’s unable to kill bacteria.
“At first I thought I was doing [the experiment] wrong,” she said.
But she continued the experiment, coming to the conclusion that the solution must consist of at least 10 percent cleaner in order to be effective.
Rubio plans to talk to the school’s head of maintenance about using a more concentrated cleaner. She also wants to do future experiments to see how many students get sick when classrooms are cleaned with the diluted solution compared to a more potent solution.
All of the students in the Summer Science Institute must include in their projects some ideas for future research. The other research topics include the effects of Monster® energy drink on teenagers’ heartbeats; the efficiency of clean solar panels versus ones covered in dirt; the effect temperature has on meal worm respiration; the bio diversity of Colson Canyon; the impact habitat has on the bacterial levels in dogs’ mouths; and how effective T-bands are at improving people’s balance.
The students will present their findings at the county science fair in March.
Contact Managing Editor Amy Asman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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