SOMERSET — In their STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) Fair project called "A Floating Mass of Trash: Tales of the Trashy Snails," Somerset Middle School students Claire Romano and Elena Cabral did an experiment to see how plastic and styrofoam that is thrown in the ocean affects animals.
Romano said that 14.1 billion pounds of garbage was dumped into the ocean in 1975 and that amount has increased since.
Romano and Cabral put gravel, plants and water into aquariums and then observed the behavior of snails in them. Romano said the snails were slow in moving around in the aquariums, like they had expected. She said that a week later, they put a piece of plastic in one of the aquariums and a piece of styrofoam in another. They also had an aquarium that they did not put plastic or styrofoam in. In the third week, they added another piece of plastic and styrofoam to the aquariums.
Romano said that in the aquarium where there was no plastic or styrofoam, the behavior of the snails stayed the same. She said that in the aquarium that had styrofoam in it, the snails moved slower and they stopped moving around as much. She said the snails seemed to generally get weaker. In the aquarium that had the plastic in it, Romano said the snails moved even slower than in the aquarium that had the styrofoam in it, so she said the plastic had more of an impact on the snails than the styrofoam.
"We did this because we really wanted to make people aware of the effects that throwing trash around the world has on animals and we think if they know the effects on animals, they would probably be more careful when they throw their trash away and recycle more," Romano said.
The project that Romano and Cabral did was one of 150 projects that were done by sixth, seventh and eighth grade students for the STEM Fair at Somerset Middle School. Most of the projects were done by teams of two students. The projects were on display in the school's gymnasium last Wednesday, where judges went around looking at them as the students explained their experiments.
"I think that some of the projects this year are really great," Nicole Pacheco, the science content coordinator at Somerset Middle School who was in charge of the STEM Fair this year, said. "I can tell they put a lot of time and effort into it."
Pacheco said she told students to dream of a problem and to try to find a way to solve it.
"I think it's extremely important to them to understand the scientific method and engineering design and it pushes them to push themselves," Pacheco said of the benefits of the STEM Fair to the students. "Even if their hypotheses isn't necessarily correct, they still have a different discovery or a new discovery. They learned something."
For their science fair project, Landon Richardson and Will Santos did an experiment with a water filter to show how water could be cleaned for people in Puerto Rico while they were waiting for their water supply to go back online after that island was hit with a destructive hurricane. With their project, activated charcoal was put in a filter to get all of the bacteria out of the water.
After the judging was done in the gymnasium at Somerset Middle School, students, parents and teachers went to the auditorium of the middle school where the winners of the STEM Fair were announced.
In the sixth grade, Aidan Nasrallah and Evan Furtado won the first place trophy for their project called "Edible Electricity." Makenzie Jacob and Maya Rezendes came in second place in sixth grade for their project called Growing Gummies. Nathan Poirier and Erin Rausch came in third place in sixth grade for their project entitled Moisture Mayhem.
The seventh grade award for first place went to Reese Swanson for her project entitled "Hunger Games Part 2." The second place trophy in grade seven went to Maxwell Jeronimo for his project entitled "The Five Second Rule" and the third place award went to the team of Abby O'Brien and Bridget Perry for their project entitled "Will It Decay or Will It Stay."
The team of Lauren Rothwell and Caroline Field earned first place in eighth grade for their project called "Oxie Moxie," Anatalia Pelletier finished in second place in eighth grade for her project called "More or Less Fish: Does Antifouling Your Boat Increase Your Catch" and the team of Claire Romano and Elena Cabral came in third place for their project entitled "A Floating Mass of Trash: Tales of the Trashy Snails."
Educators from different schools in Somerset, as well as people from the community judged the STEM Fair projects.
"This has been one of our best and well attended science fairs," Somerset Middle School Principal Pauline Camara said.