Science Fair Attracts Young and Bright

At 12 years old, Landon Quintana is an expert.

Quintana, a seventh-grader at Kearns-St. Ann, has spent most of his childhood studying the mysteries surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

“I’ve been interested in this subject since at least third or fourth grade, and I’ve been reading books about JFK my whole life,” Quintana said.

His science fair project, complete with a 3-D diorama of downtown Dallas, outlines specifically where the bullet that killed the president was fired from.

“I knew since I was a kid the assassination was a cover-up,” Quintana said.

Quintana is among the 120 middle and high school students competing in the first annual Salt Lake Valley Regional Science and Engineering Fair, which wraps up today at 5 p.m. in the Huntsman Center.

Sponsored by the Utah Engineering Experiment Station, students from Tooele, Salt Lake City and Granite school districts as well as several private Catholic schools displayed their projects.

Eric Vokt, regional fair director, has been planning the details of the competition since last August.

“It’s been a year-long process, and as soon as this fair is over [tonight], we’ll be planning the [fair] for next year,” Vokt said.

With other regional competitions at BYU, Weber State, and Cedar City, Vokt is excited that the Salt Lake Valley can compete with students from around the state.

“Things are going very well, and the kids are loving it and seem really excited about the whole thing,” Vokt said.

Other projects included 12 year- old Robert Perkes’ project about the rate of tooth decay caused by various brands of soda.

According to Perkes collected data, Diet Mountain Dew causes more tooth decay than other sodas.

“I found that because of all the sugar and acidity of the drink, it wore teeth down the fastest,” Perkes said.

Perkes’ inspiration for the project came from the realization that teens consume such large amounts.

“That’s just what they do,” Perkes said. Though he is thinking of going into the Marines when he goes to college, he has not counted out a career in dentistry.

“I’m not really into dentistry, but I thought this was a cool project,” he said.

Kenneth Petersen, a faculty member in the department of engineering, was one of 60 judges who volunteered for the fair.

“I’ve been judging fairs for years,” Petersen said. It’s hard to select the top projects because the kids work so hard, he said.

Petersen said that once students reach high school, the lure of sports and other extracurricular activities force those who continue to compete to make their projects better and better.

“I really hand it to the high school kids for being so dedicated and committed,” Petersen said.

The competition is broken down into 13 categories, with the two grand prize winners from the nine to 12 grade senior division. Winners in this category receive an all expenses-paid trip to Louisville, Ky., to represent the region at the International Science and Engineering Fair in May.

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