Fielding Keeley, James Connors and John Vanterpool of William James Middle School just earned exceptional honors: they brought home the Grand Prize for all Team Projects at the Junior (Middle School) Division of the State Science and Engineering Fair held earlier in April.
Every year, high schools and middle schools from across the state participate in the annual science fair competition. Beginning at the individual school and then the county level, the students and their projects, either done individually or as a team, are judged on scientific and creative merits. The students with the best projects then go on to one of the state’s 21 regional competitions held in February.
Several of their teachers described the boys as “the most advanced thinkers I’ve ever had” and “the kind of kids that are always thinking outside of the box.”
William James principal Daryl Fineran said: These boys are “great kids, both academically and socially” and “they always are striving to achieve at the highest levels.”
The three boys, neighborhood buddies as well as classmates, did a great deal of brainstorming on what they would build. It was in September when they decided their project would have something to do with airplanes, as one of their dads worked at Gulfstream Aerospace and would be able to give them some advice. The final project title: "The Effect of Wing Curvature on Lift at Low Air Speed”.
Now came what they described as the fun part: finding the materials. Connors was given the job of getting Balsa wood for building the airfoil (imagine airplane wings without the airplane). Keeley was assigned the job of getting some sort of device to measure the changes in wind speed. He ended up borrowing an old anemometer from another parent. Vanterpool got the task of finding several sheets of acrylic and a piece of wood with which they would build their wind tunnel.
Once they had constructed their rudimentary wind-tunnel and had suspended one of their airfoils inside the tunnel, they took turns adjusting the blower speeds, checking the results on the anemometer, and then recording the data their experiment was providing. Once they were done, they input all of the data into Microsoft Excel, and came up with a total of nine graphs which displayed their findings.
These were mounted on a board, which became part of the project, along with the wind tunnel. They also displayed the different types of airfoils: rectangular flat plate, thick curved, cambered (the best design, they found), and thin non-cambered. They couldn’t bring their blower, as it was gasoline powered and safety concerns precluded any explosive or flammable materials from being included as part of the project display.
Not surprisingly, their project won the William James and then the Bulloch County competitions. Keeley, Connors and Vanterpool then attended the Southeast Georgia Regional Science Fair in Savannah at Armstrong Atlantic State University. The boys survived two hours of questioning by judges, winning first place in the Junior Division level.
They were then invited to the State Science fair. Held at the University of Georgia for the last 60 years, the competition lasts three days. On the first day, the 700 students competing underwent five hours of questioning by a select panel of over 150 different judges. On the second day, the public was invited to come and see the work of the brightest students throughout the state. On the third and final day, the awards were handed out.
There were 290 awards handed out that day in the Senior and Junior Divisions. They ranged from First Place Awards (the boys won in Physics & Astronomy) to specialized awards (the boys won both the Navy/Marine Corps Award and the Society of Automotive Engineers Award) to the final Grand Prize Awards for the Junior and Senior Divisions. It was at this time they learned that they had won the Georgia Junior Academy of Sciences Grand Prize Team Award.