Sheldon Middle School science project

Eighth-grader Heather Honkomp explains her and Katelyn Dykstra’s science fair project to the Sheldon School District Board of Education. The duo had investigated how the appearance of cupcakes impacts how people perceive the cupcakes taste.

SHELDON—At its regularly scheduled meeting last Wednesday, the Sheldon School District Board of Education got a look at the top three projects presented at the Sheldon Middle School’s 24th annual Eighth-Grade Science Fair held Nov. 19.

Eighth-graders Tamson Budden, Hannah Honkomp, Heather Honkomp and Katelyn Dykstra showed board members their science projects, for which the students had to form a hypothesis and design a controlled experiment to find out if that hypothesis is supported or not.

Budden’s experiment about the effect chickens’ diets have on their egg yolks placed first while Hannah Honkomp’s project on fruit peel absorbency placed second. Heather Honkomp and Dykstra’s cupcake-themed project on how color affects perception of taste came in at third place.

Budden explained she compared the colors of egg yolks from two different types of fowl: a caged chicken and a pasture-raised chicken. The darker the egg yolk’s color, the more nutrients were present.

Although she predicted the caged birds would produce darker egg yolks, it was the pasture-raised chickens that did so. She concluded that was because they supplemented their diet with alfalfa from the field on their own, which the caged birds could not do.

Board member Jessica Brink asked if the darker yolks were therefore healthier to eat.

“It doesn’t really matter,” Tamson responded. “You might get some stuff out of the pasture eggs but it’s really the same.”

Heather Honkomp and Dykstra presented next.

Heather explained their project involved a taste test where their middle school peers guessed the flavor of cupcakes the girls had baked. Some of the cupcakes’ flavors matched the color while others had a flavor that was at odds with their appearance.

“We tested them on three levels,” Heather said.

“The first one was who gets the flavor right just by looking at the color. So when you look at this, you’re going to think that it’s cherry flavored since it’s red. And then we also did what you thought the favor was just taking a bite without chewing it and then can you guess the flavor right. And then the final one was could you guess the flavor right after you swallowed it.”

The results were mixed as some of their student peers guessed the flavor right on all three counts while others did not.

Hannah Honkomp presented the results of her experiment last. She explained she tested the capacity of orange, lemon, avocado and banana peels to absorb a common type of dye.

Her hypothesis predicated the orange peels would be the most absorbent, but that turned out not to be the case.

“The orange peel didn’t take as much dye in as the rest of them,” she said. “It went that orange absorbed the least, then it was the lemon and then it was the banana and then it was the avocado peel.”

To measure how much dye was absorbed, she measured the mass of the peels before and after they had been placed in the jars of water that was polluted with the dye.

Middle school science teacher Jim Gude explained the science fair project is one of the most comprehensive efforts his students work on since it not only involves science but researching, writing, speaking, math and even art. Students also get freedom to choose their own project and how to do it.

“They are truly in the driver’s seat,” Gude said. “They decide the project, they decide the methodology for putting the project together.”

Since the four eighth-graders placed in the top three spots, they will show their projects in late March at the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa competition in Ames.