Lewis Cass Intermediate School District’s 26th annual Elementary Science Olympiad ended March 8 like Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” A vortex cannon boomed foggy rings across Southwestern Michigan College’s theatre to the delight of 120 Dowagiac, Edwardsburg and Cassopolis third, fourth and fifth graders.
The “Science Spectacular” finale by Anna Sterner, traveling science and distance learning coordinator for Michigan Science Center in Detroit, followed a morning of hands-on activities, some competitive, like the Dowagiac team from Justus Gage Elementary School building a boat buoyant enough to float a 40-marble cargo.
“Events like Science Olympiad are integral to growing the minds of the children in Cass County,” LCISD Superintendent Brent Holcomb said. “Learning opportunities like this don’t occur without the generous support of organizations like the college.”
“SMC has proven to be an educational entity that cares about our students,” Holcomb said. “They are a proven partner who is willing to go above and beyond to expand the horizons of young people. Lewis Cass ISD is blessed to have partnership with SMC. Together, we are working for a better future for our community.”
Life science, earth science and physical/chemical science sessions occurred throughout the Dale A. Lyons Building on SMC’s Dowagiac campus.
Fifth graders attending “Air Junk” heard David Morichon’s book, Pollution? No Problem, examined dust mites under a microscope and made sticky luggage tag-size “junk catchers” to hang like fly strips.
Third graders explored rocks and minerals. They learned that molten rock is magma under Earth’s crust, becoming lava once erupted from a volcano, then hardening into igneous rock. Metamorphic and sedimentary are the two other main rock groups. Edwardsburg captured first place.
Fourth graders experimented with physics principles by designing roller coasters with marbles, masking tape and bendable Hot Wheels-style track, accruing points for each maneuver accomplished (three per U-turn, five per loop, one each time the marble traveled uphill and 10 if the marble sailed through the air and landed in a red Solo cup. First place in the competition went to Edwardsburg.
Sterner’s show encompassed physics, chemistry and electricity.
A leaf blower levitating a Jupiter beach ball demonstrated Bernoulli’s principle. She created a human electrical circuit conducted by seven volunteers holding hands.
A Van de Graff Generator, which accumulated static electricity on a metal globe, was demonstrated with a Barbie doll head and packing peanuts. Sterner launched film canister “rockets” into the audience propelled by Alka-Seltzer fizzing in water.
She slipped a super-absorbent polymer into a beaker of water so when she turned it upside down on a boy’s head he didn’t get wet. The chemical reaction from hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, food coloring and a salt catalyst yielded an exothermic reaction and foamy “elephant’s toothpaste.”
Her vortex cannon was a plastic wastebasket with a hole cut in the bottom and plastic stretched across the mouth like a drum head. After using air vortices to ruffle the hair of a girl standing several feet away, Sterner filled it from a fog machine for the big finale.