State College

State High, Penn State students showcase science demonstrations

Chris Thawley, with the Penn State biology department, shows Will Starinchak, left, Grayer Starinchak, middle, and Annie Starinchak a giant marine isopod. The State College Area School District and Penn State University partnered to host Exploration U on Wednesday. The event provides a host of science themed educational experiences.
Chris Thawley, with the Penn State biology department, shows Will Starinchak, left, Grayer Starinchak, middle, and Annie Starinchak a giant marine isopod. The State College Area School District and Penn State University partnered to host Exploration U on Wednesday. The event provides a host of science themed educational experiences. CDT photo

State College Area High School science teacher Jack Lyke is using aquaponics to teach biology in class.

It’s a production system that combines the use of fish with hydroponics to grow plants.

And the goal when the new high school is built is to use the method to create a sustainable rooftop garden.

On Tuesday night, his students had the chance to show the community just what they were getting themselves into behind classroom doors.

The aquaponics station was one of more than two dozen exhibits at the State High South Building as part of the annual Exploration-U program that showcases science demonstrations from State High and Penn State students.

State High science coordinator Tod McPherson said the district teamed up with Penn State’s Eberly College of Science to promote STEM subjects, and the science fair was the culmination of the students’ efforts.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

“It’s promoting the sciences in school and combining and integrating aspects of development and research,” McPherson said. “Everything crosses over into science.”

Freshman Lily Zhang and sophomore Noah Miller took guests on a tour of the aquaponics area and science classroom that had mini systems on their desks and a greenhouse-type space with lettuce, tomatoes and peppers grown by using the system.

“It’s so cool that we can get hands on, and use a trial-and-error method to make our own desktop aquaponics system and see the end result,” Zhang said.

The fish used in Lyke’s aquaponics setup are a type of tilapia. The students, on the other hand, use goldfish.

Zhang said the fish excrement and the water the fish are in are filtered through a water system that gives nutrients to plants.

“It’s just one big cycle,” Miller said. “It’s one of those things people hope will be used so we never run out of resources.”

At another station, the State High Health Occupation Students of America held a strength test demonstration that measured each person’s grip using a handgrip dynamometer.

Junior Zishma Rana said the group found that, for the majority of people, the dominant hand was the stronger of the two.

She added that after charting their discoveries, club members would calculate averages for each age.

“What we have is just a different kind of science other than chemistry and biology, and do a lot related to health and medical sciences,” Rana said.

And almost everyone who walked through the doors of the South Building on Tuesday night was given a tour of a traveling planetarium that featured constellations.

Kate Grier, a postdoctoral researcher in Penn State’s astronomy department, gave a quick lesson to students and their families as she pointed out constellations such as the big and little dippers, Orion and more, and noted their positions in the sky with the tilt of the Earth’s axis.

“It’s a big hit,” she said. “The kids get to crawl in here and see how the stars align in the sky.”

But the main mission was to promote — and have fun with — science.

“We’re lucky to live in a community that’s so invested in education on both levels and show that we’re having fun and serving the common good,” McPherson said.

  Comments