3 St. Paul students head for state competitions

SALEM – For the first time ever, St. Paul School boasts three students going to state competitions – not for sports, but for their skills in geography, computer science and chemistry.

“We’re excited,” Principal Dave Pancurak said Wednesday. “When they compete, they represent St. Paul School and they just do an amazing job.”

Sixth grader Colleen Bungard will put her knowledge of maps, climates, mountains and other geographic information to the test Friday during the 2014 Ohio Geographic Bee in Columbus.

On May 10, sixth grader Nick Scarpitti and fifth grader Jacob McLachlan will present their scientific research projects during the State Science Day event on The Ohio State University campus, also in Columbus.

Bungard, 11, is the daughter of Dennis Bungard and Dr. Laurie Penix of Salem. Earlier this year, she won the school spelling bee and finished sixth in the Columbiana County Spelling Bee last month.

She won the school geography bee in December and recently qualified for the state contest by finishing with one of the top 100 scores in Ohio on the written multiple-choice test. There were 70 questions. The state contest is for grades 4-8, with the winner advancing to the national contest in May in Washington, D.C.

Scarpitti, 12, is the son of John and Kathy Scarpitti of Salem and was the top sixth grader at the school science fair with the robots he designed and raced on the computer. McLachlan, 11, is the son of Neill and Katharine McLachlan of Salem. He was the top fifth grader at the school science fair for his experiment on what it takes to float an egg.

Both Scarpitti and McLachlan advanced to the district competition held last month at Youngstown State University, where 125 students from Columbiana, Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties presented their projects. They both earned a trip to Columbus with a superior rating and received a $25 cash award. They were two of 55 students from the district who qualified for state, where 1,000 students in grades 5-12 will make presentations.

“We support them and we’re proud of their accomplishments,” Pancurak said.

He explained that taking part in the advanced competitions is good experience for the students.

“Kinda helps with the nerves,” Bungard said.

She just found out a few weeks ago that she qualified for the state geographic bee, which is a precursor to the National Geographic Bee held at the National Geographic Society headquarters. The state bee is sponsored by Plum Creek and Google and will be held at the Columbus State Community College Center for Workforce Development.

Questions don’t just cover capitals and countries. On the test, she said she answered questions dealing with maps and graphs, including climographs which chart information about climate in certain areas. She said there were a lot of questions on land forms.

She’s been preparing by studying questions on the GeoBee App on her sister Sarah’s Kindle. The state competition will include preliminary rounds, a tiebreaker and finals, with most of the contest oral questions, with some written. Once the competition’s over, she’s planning on some sightseeing, too.

St. Paul science teacher Spencer Aldridge said he’s very proud, happy and excited for his students. Preparation for the school science fair was a four-month process, starting with a survey students completed to determine what interested them. Then they decided on a project, did their research and gathered background information, developed a hypothesis, did experiments to try to prove their hypothesis, some with modifications required, prepared a research paper about the project, graphed the results and prepared their presentation on a board.

At the district competition, all they were allowed to bring was their board presentation and their knowledge. They couldn’t bring or perform the actual experiment. The state competition will be similar.

Scarpitti used computer science and a computer program known as VoxCad (computer aided design) to build three robots utilizing 3-D imaging, each with a different number of legs. He tried to determine which robot was the fastest, finding that the robot with 14 legs was faster than robots with six legs and eight legs because it was more powerful.

While Scarpitti was designing his computers onscreen, he also used a kit to build an actual robot out of Legos and a motor just for fun.

McLachlan’s project was in the area of chemistry, dealing with egg flotation and how the density of water is affected by the amount of salt in the water.

“Eggs can float in water if you have enough salt,” he said.

He went through 15 eggs and learned that an egg will float with 6 teaspoons of salt in 500 milliliters of water. The water was room temperature and the eggs were raw. An egg floated on his fifth try.

Both students learned about documentation, research and oral presentations. Judges asked participants questions about their findings, so to prepare for the state science day, they’ve been preparing answers for various questions. They’re also memorizing their presentations.

Participants in State Science Day, which is put on by the Ohio Academy of Science, will display projects covering a wide array of sciences.