Thinking outside the boxPublished 12:49pm Monday, April 4, 2011
Nicole Jasper decided to think outside box and into the shopping cart when choosing her science project this year.
Nicole, 14, is an eighth-grader at Edwardsburg Middle School, and like her peers, was required to present a project for the EMS Academic Showcase March 24. She presented one of about 200 projects by seventh- and eighth-graders on display for the community. Numerous art projects by students in grades 6-8 was also on display, and a 19-act talent show was held that evening. Other classes, like English, social studies and tech education, also presented projects for the public.
Nicole, a Niles resident, decided on a project that is informational and even surprising.
“I wanted to test how much bacteria is in a shopping cart,” she said.
Her mother, who works in a laboratory, helped her conduct the experiment, in which she obtained swabs from shopping carts outside five Mishawaka stores: Walmart, Target, Meijer, Menards and Martin’s Super Market. Nicole had the samples tested in the lab.
Her hypothesis was that Walmart would have the most bacteria colonies. The result was that Meijer had by far the most, with 2,356 colonies; Target had zero; Walmart had six; Martin’s had 480; and Menards had one.
Nicole also tested the carts for klebsiella, which can cause pneumonia and urinary problems. Martin’s and Meijer were the only stores to test positive for the bacterium.
“The results were surprising,” Nicole said, noting that the first kind of bacteria she tested for does not necessarily pose a health risk to customers. She recommended utilizing the sanitary wipes available at most stores for carts.
Nicole received an A+ for her efforts.
Two other eighth-graders, Jackson Gaideski and Ben Buzalski, presented “Fast Food Rip-offs” at the Academic Showcase.
Jackson, 14, wanted to see “if we were getting what we’re paying for” at fast food joints.
The duo purchased 32-ounce sodas from drive-throughs at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Dairy Queen to see if they serve the amount of soda advertised.
Jackson, of Niles, said his hypothesis was that “they are just trying to get more (money) out of you.”
They removed the ice from the cups and measured the soda. McDonald’s proved most “honest” with 27 ounces of beverage; Burger King had the least with 17 ounces.
Fourteen-year-old Kolter Mecklenburg, of Edwardsburg, tried his hand at growing lentils for his science project. For his three-day experiment, he grew lentil seeds in water, vinegar, bleach and vegetable oil to see in which liquid the seeds grew fastest.
“I grew 20 seeds in each sample of chemicals,” the eighth-grader explained.
His hypothesis was that the seeds would grow the fastest in water, and he was correct. However, the seeds grew bigger in the bleach, which also caused the seeds to become spotted with brown.
“It’s pretty fun,” Kolter said. “It pretty much came out the way I thought.”
Seventh grade science teacher Melissa Cieniuch said her students enjoy studying something that sparks their interest.
“Instead of having a set experiment we have to do … we get to pick something we want to do,” she said. “For them, it’s a middle school self-esteem-raiser.”