Carlisle School eighth-grade science fair is a blast


Emily Chappie shows her prototype of a Pratt deck truss bridge. Her design saved $20K in the estimated cost. As an entry in the West Point Bridge Design Contest, she came in 528 out of 5,781 entries.

(Photo by Karina Coombs)

by Karina Coombs

The Carlisle School’s eighth-grade science fair finished with a bang on Tuesday night. Literally. With much fanfare, students Maria Balles and Arianna DiRomualdo closed the fair with the firing of their potato cannon, an engineering experiment to create a more accurate cannon without limiting its range. Amidst much cheering, students, who had just moments before masterfully explained complicated scientific principles and engineering designs, tore down the hill, through the parking lot and into the woods in hopes of finding pieces of shattered potato.

The cannon was one of many exciting engineering challenges and science experiments on display throughout the cafeteria and front entryway of the school on April 9. Parents, siblings, teachers and residents mingled throughout the area asking questions and listening to thoughtful presentations on everything from magnetic fields to culvert erosion.


Reid Wiggins (left) and his partner Josh Szczesniak explore non-invasive measurement of intracranial pressure using the Doppler effect. (Photo by Karina Coombs)

Reid Wiggins and Josh Szczesniak explained the Doppler effect as it pertains to measuring intracranial pressure as a non-invasive tool using an amplifier mounted on the back of a truck. Emily Chappie showed her Pratt deck truss bridge prototype, developed while considering both strength and building costs using CAD software. And Blake Hatch explained the correlation between recognizing the frames per second in a film and the age of a viewer using nine familial test subjects to collect twenty-seven data points.

Students also took turns grading the presentations of their peers. Eighth grade science teacher Dr. Kathryn Marsh explained the current group of students were some of the most enthusiastic she has had during the four years the fair has been running at the school. Little complaining was heard during the three months the students worked on their projects, she noted, while adding that the students were learning scientific concepts that she did not face until college.


Blake Hatch tried to determine the optimum frames per second for a movie.

(Photo by Karina Coombs)

Projects had to be either engineering or experimental, with the latter following the scientific method. Both types of projects had to fall under physical science as part of the eighth-grade science curriculum, said Marsh.

Ten projects will travel to the Regional Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair to be held at UMASS Lowell on May 4, with an 11th project going to the Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair held at the Worcester Technical High School on June 1.

While some students proved their hypothesis, many others did not. And yet, the students whose projects did not work the way they had hoped, were able to explain where problems occurred and why, and had already determined ways in which they would fix them in the future—the mark of a true scientist. ∆