5If chickens eat peanuts, will their eggs be larger?  Can changing the color of a drink trick your taste buds?  Which battery has the longest life when in constant use?

These were just a few of the questions students answered for this year’s Elko County Science Fair. While this year’s fair had about 500 projects, that number is down from the norm, said committee member Hadley Noren.  Still, the committee had more than 100 judges looking at science fair boards and interviewing the high school participants.

“Most of them are just community members with a science background,” Noren said.

Science Fair organizers expressed appreciation for the community businesses not only supporting the fair with their money, but by allowing employees to give some of their time.

An awards ceremony took place March 12 at the Elko Convention Center.  This year’s grand prize winners are Ben Braunstadter, Yimeng “lina” Du and Kaycee Smith.  The three will be attending the International Science and Engineering Fair this May in Pittsburgh and Braunstadter and Du will be competing.

Braunstadter is a senior at Spring Creek High School who chose to continue a project from last year on “Sustainable Energy and Water Purification from the Oxidation of Anaerobic Bacteria. Ben is the son of Sandra and Dennis Braunstadter, formerly of Hawthorne and grandson of Tony and Sharon Hughes of Hawthorne.

“Last year, I tested the water from the Spring Creek Marina to see how much electricity I’d get,” he said.  This year he took manure from a compost pile, sewage from the Wastewater Treatment Plant and pond scum from the Marina.  Braunstadter found that the bacteria created electricity that purified the water over a period of 30 days.  The manure cleared up the most, he said.  “I thought the sewer water would produce the most electricity,” he said.

Braunstadter took the grand prize of $250 from Newmont Mining Corp.  He is thinking about becoming a chemical engineer. His board was entitled, Sustainable Energy and Water Purification from the Oxidation of Anaerobic Bacteria.