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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Q3 i2 Project Benchmark

   Since I have temporarily taken a break from my research (which I will continue after finishing my experiment), I have finally decided what my experiment will be. I recently read a story on SF Gate that revealed that BART was the "germiest" subway system second only to NYC's Subway. This made me wonder which BART station had the highest bacteria diversity (aka which one is the "germiest") and what types of bacteria could be found there. I have decided to conduct an experiment in which I collect samples from select BART stations and compare them.

Revised Timeline: (see March-May)
Begin planning research opportunities and finding resources that can help me achieve my goal
Begin research using mainly print sources
     ex. borrow most sources from libraries; take notes 
Continue research using sources
Finalize project plan
Winter Break
Continue research (begin notebook, finish Missing Microbes)
Annotate (articles & books)
Annotate/compile notes!
Begin conceptualizing/conducting experiment
(I'm tentatively planning to collect my samples over spring break.)
Complete experiment, do write up and compile/edit footage
Finalize my presentation (write up/video) 

Evidence of Progress:
     Since the second blog post in December, I have finished a couple other books. However, using library books as research isn't exactly the best method because you can't write in their margins and highlight. Therefore, I photocopied the four main books I read and added them to the growing stack of microbiology papers in my room (see below).

The photocopied books are at the top, and my random notebooks/papers make up the rest of the pile (because who needs one perfectly organized notebook when you can have ten haphazardly filled with notes?).
     In terms of what I've annotated in the books, I've mostly focused on things that could inspire other experiments/projects I could do later when I have more knowledge and better access to resources. A great example of this is the Winogradsky column, which I first found out about in Welcome to the Microbiome. If I happen to stop by Lake Chabot soon, I may even be able to present my column at the i2 showcase in May.

Each of these four books have provided the majority of my research, and I highly recommend each of them! (However, The Invisible Kingdom is probably the best for casual reading because of its more informal language.)
Photocopied page that first talks about Winogradsky-style columns (while this isn't exactly related to the human microbiome, it sounds like a fun side project)

Further detail on the Winogradsky column, which is a device used to culture a large number of microorganisms using pond water and sediment (to make it more effective, eggshells and shredded newspaper can be added)
     The farthest I've gotten with the BART project so far is coming up with the idea and ordering my supplies. All I can say as of now is that it will compare an undecided number of BART stations and their bacteria diversity. I also plan to document the project on paper and through video. (You can expect a blog post soon that will explain my project in further detail before April!)

Project Reviews:

Jessica Blelloch (2019):
     Jessica's project, which concerns bone data analysis (with a focus on osteocytes) is really interesting. It's great that she has such a specific focus and that she has an internship so early in her high school career. Her evidence of progress, which includes numerous microscope pictures of bones and a screenshot of her recently completed biology course is pretty impressive. I also appreciate and can relate to her candid confessions, especially when she states that she did not understand a lot of what was covered in the bio course she took, because I had a similar experience while reading the more technical books filled with confusing scientific terminology. To have a tangible project for the May showcase, I suggest compiling what she has learned during her internship into a presentation (such as Google slides) or video that she can have on loop. Overall, I like Jessica's project and wish her good luck!

Katherine Pan (2018):
     Katherine's i2 project is to get her junior HPR level one certification for rocketry. What she has posted so far for her evidence of progress shows a genuine interest in her project, which I appreciate. I like that she posted an interesting video of herself building a rocket since it provides concrete proof of her work. I wish her luck with completing the Bat Ray (the rocket she will use to get her certification) and I suggest that she make a specific long term plan and schedule that breaks up the rocket construction so that it is more manageable. 

Callie Boskin (2017):
     Callie's i2 project went from completing a short film to her position as the school's VEX robotics team manager. As a member of the team, I can totally say that she did a great job and provided some much needed organization to the club. What I really like most about her project is her decision to do something she wanted to do instead of something she felt she was forced to do, which is what i2 is all about. I can't really provide any legitimate constructive criticism. If possible, I would suggest promoting the robotics club to the entire SHCP community (especially to girls) if she chooses to be its manager again next year.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The One Where We Launch Even More Rockets (And Talk About Ovens)

"Reactions As Recipes"

Practice Problems:

     This cycle's practice problems were the most challenging ones so far. While the first few (with an excess reactant) were easy enough to understand, the other problems we did later were more confusing. Because there were so many different parts to the problem that I could (and did) mess up on, I struggled with these problems more than previous sets. My biggest problem was that I had no idea that every number in the "C" row had to be multiplied by the reference ratio. I also kept on making a bunch of simple mistakes, which included getting the wrong molar mass of substances with multiple elements and rounding wrong.
Ex. of Understood Problems
If 0.25 moles of sodium metal, Na react completely with excess oxygen, O2 gas how many moles of solid sodium oxide, Na2O are produced?
Ex. of Challenging Problems
How many liters of hydrogen gas must react with 4.0 grams of nitrogen gas to produce to produce ammonia gas, NH3 with no excess? Assume STP (1 atm and 0oC)

    One of our first activities involved making a mini version of our hydrogen rockets. We had smaller bottles filled with some water. After pouring in a bit of calcium carbide, we capped the bottle with a bandana. The reaction between the water and calcium carbide produced acetylene gas. We could prove this by lighting the bottle, and the small explosion that occurred after showed that the oxygen from the environment reacted with the newly formed acetylene gas .

Our two best mini rocket explosions

     Another activity we did was observe the reaction between potassium nitrate, sucrose, and fire in a "smoke bomb". This reaction creates carbon, the black substance left behind in the jar. 

A slightly sped-up clip of the smoke bomb

     We also placed a piece of magnesium in some hydrogen chloride to learn how to use the ideal gas law equation in stoichiometry. This lab taught us the difference between "limited" and "excess" reactants.
During the reaction, the magnesium in the test tube got warm enough to form steam.

     In an "enlightening" demo that involved dry ice and magnesium, we got to see another reaction that formed carbon. The magnesium was placed in a small hole carved in the dry ice then lit. An extremely bright light shone as we covered the magnesium with another block of dry ice. After we uncovered the magnesium, we found that carbon was formed! Mr. M applied this reaction to global warming, stating that this is one of the possible (albeit insanely expensive) ways to get rid of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Two trials of the demo mentioned above, (one in the light, another in the dark)

     As another demo for this cycle, Mr. M made another rocket. However, this one relied on baking soda and vinegar to launch (yes, like the cliche middle school volcano science fair projects). This demo was done to reinforce the process we learned to treat "reactions as recipes" (the problem this demo represented is on the white board in the right of the video).
A brief slow-motion clip of the coke bottle-pens-baking soda-vinegar rocket

     Our final lab for this cycle involved us using 9-volt batteries to ignite steel wool. After burning the steel wool, we left it over the weekend and then poured water over it when we came back. The white iron oxide that formed when we burned the steel wool then turned red when we got it wet, which demonstrated a faster way of forming rust.

A few short clips of the rusting activity

Quiz (To Be Edited After We Get Tests Back):
     The quiz for this cycle wasn't devastatingly difficult, but I did get paranoid while solving the problems on it because of the numerous areas you could make simple mistakes in. The blimp question was especially daunting because of the huge numbers involved since we had only done problems with fairly small numbers before the test. In the end, this was probably the cycle test I spent the most time on, but I still feel confident in what I turned in.

  • Does the technique for solving these types of problems change greatly when more than two reactants are present? Do those problems even exist?