LAKEWOOD, Wash.—“If this, then what?” is the basis for a hypothesis in a science experiment. So if you put 60 soldiers together with hundreds of middle school children and have the soldiers judge their science projects then what do you get? A bunch of nervous soldiers and children that eventually learn to laugh and have a good time is the hypothesis.
Soldiers with the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps spent the day judging science fair entries at Mann Middle School in Lakewood, Wash., Feb. 12, as part of a community connector event. Hundreds of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders stood in front of their displays as the approximately 60 soldiers evaluated students on their projects.
The students started their projects in early December of last year with a few ideas that would turn into science experiments. Over the next few months they developed the ideas, through the use of the scientific method, until the culminating event when they would be judged.
For the soldiers, the day started out with a brief by the organizers of the science fair. They would have to become subject matter experts on being a judge in just a very short time. The soldier-judges were given instruction to evaluate the projects on: how well each conformed to the scientific method, the oral presentation given by the student and the accuracy of the data gathered from the experiment.
From that point the judges perused the projects speaking with participants about what their experiment was, how they proved or disproved their hypothesis and some of the students’ thoughts on the science project.
Initially, most of the soldiers looked a bit nervous as they listened to students explain the various experiments. The only people more nervous in the room stood quite a bit shorter as they waited for their projects to be judged.
“Make sure you drag the information out of them if they are a little shy,” said Rhonda Bostick, 6th grade teacher, science department chair. “They have been practicing on their presentation and should know what they are talking about.”
The morning progressed and the soldiers relaxed, as did the students. Both became more accustomed to each other. Smiles beaming across faces became a common occurrence as the excited soldiers and students discussed the various projects.
The soldiers listened to the students and viewed the projects; “I’m going to try this at home later,” could be heard echoing from many of the CAB soldiers’ mouths.
Volunteers from the Army have been judging the competition for the past five years, said Bostick.
“We love having them out. We know the soldiers love to come and the kids just love to have the soldiers as judges,” she said. “The soldiers are going to learn a lot.”
Many of the volunteer judges have children that attend local schools and for some soldiers helping with science fair projects is quite common.
For one of the judges Spc. Jacob Kim, mechanic with 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th CAB, helping build projects is what he does with his two kids at home, he said.
Kim who judged Chiara Klein’s project “Electro Magnet” said, “They have a lot of curiosity. Some of the projects can seem complicated but I like their attitude as they soar and learn.”
Klein said she hopes to study aviation and electricity when she gets older.
The projects ranged anywhere from how long it takes milk to rot – Madeline Feltey’s project, to extracting DNA from fruit in Tyler Cruise’s “Fruitastic Extraction.”
The day wasn’t all about the science though, as both the children and the soldiers had fun interacting with each other and getting to know their community better.
For Cruise, it made an impact having soldiers look at his project.
“They fight for our country and for them to come here and say that I did a pretty good job it should be the other way around,” Cruise said. “I should be the one saying that they did a good job.”
While the day went well and everyone seemed to have a good time, it was still a competition. Ten students in each grade will move on to the district level fair. The winners will be announced in early March.