FARMINGTON — The projects at Piedra Vista High School's annual science fair covered everything from the growth of plants exposed to classical music to figuring out if your cat is ambidextrous.

The projects lining tables in the school's common area Monday night represented the conclusion of six months of work. They covering a wide spectrum of scientific research and thought.

Biology teacher and science fair sponsor Gail Silva said this year's fair saw 75 entries across 12 categories, an increase of 15 entries over last year.

The fair is a requirement for freshmen in advanced placement or honors science. Students have a choice of competing in the science fair or state science Olympiad.

Silva said she is amazed by the range of ideas and how ingenious the students can be with their projects.

"They come up with more ideas than I could have ever come up with," Silva said. "The range you see here is phenomenal. Everything from your simple, ordinary project to high school math and physics projects that even the ordinary adult may not understand."

The three most competitive categories are physics, medicine and health, and behavioral science, with the highest number of entries concentrated into those categories.

Benjamin Nelson-Schille's project titled "Super Solar" focused on his attempt to improve the efficiency of a solar panel using funnel-shaped focuser covered in aluminum foil.


By using the funnel focuser, he was able to increase the voltage coming out of the panel by 10 to 20 percent.

"Right now, solar energy costs a lot of money because you need a lot of panels in the area to collect electricity, it's not very efficient," Nelson-Schille said.

Megan Ma entered her project testing the effects of energy drinks on mice in the animal science category. Dubbed "Monster Mice," Ma constructed a maze for two groups of mice to reach peanut butter. After inducing hunger for 24 hours and only giving them water, the control group improved their time running the maze in each of the six trials.

The group of mice given 1 milliliter of a Monster energy drink got through the maze faster until the sixth trial, where times substantially increased.

"I connected a behavior that humans get when we drink Monster energy drinks and coffee," Ma said. "Sometimes we have a crash, all of the sudden, and that's what I was seeing in group two."

Ma said she enjoyed working with the mice the most, learning how to interact with them with the help of a friend.

"At first, I was really shaky and didn't know how to handle them," Ma said.

In the hallways lining the commons area, AP Physics and Geology teacher Dave Travieso was asked students if their physics projects involved fire, making sure they had cups of water ready to douse any flames.

Travieso's students were demonstrating Rube Goldberg machines - an over-engineered machine designed to perform a very simple task in a very complex and dramatic fashion - they built as class projects.

Senior Kevin Bornemeier worked with his partners to produce a machine that takes six or seven steps to pop a balloon.

Marbles, toy cars and pendulums were all part of their machine's process, transferring the energy across the device.

"The wind-up toy knocks over a set of dominoes and those dominoes hit a marble resting at the entrance of this tube and the marble is going to travel down and hit this stand," Bornemeier said, describing the first half of this group's machine.

Bornemeier said the project was fun and difficult at the same time, with lots of adjustments required to make it work.

"It took a while to figure out what we were going to do and trying to perfect it," Bornemeier said. "Lots of trial and error to mix things around and try different setups to get it to work."