Petros Burleson demonstrates his robot at the Ocracoke School STEAM fair.

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Text and photos by Connie Leinbach

Earl Pugh Jr. learned something at the Ocracoke School STEAM Fair.

Pugh, chair of the Hyde County Board of Commissioners, learned the best battery to use for his outdoor weather station.

“Now I know that lithium is better,” Pugh said amid the hubbub of the students’ exhibits in the school gym. He was referring to the first-place science project in grades 6 to 8 by Christian Stevens in which the sixth-grader demonstrated the best buy in batteries based on his experimentation.

“It’s wonderful,” Pugh continued about the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math fair. “I also learned which fishing line is the strongest. Some of these projects could be put to practical use.”

Judges on March 29 assessed more than 60 projects from the pre-school to grade 12 in the Ocracoke School gym. Ocracoke added an arts component, as do some other schools. Participation in the fair was voluntary and students in grades 3 to 5 submitted the most projects.

Shayna Brooks wins Best of Show in the art category for her ‘Seed Bombs’ jewelry.

“Phunky Pheromones and Termite Trails,” a project by sixth-grader Maren Donlon, showed how termites detected pheromones in various inks by following paths that Donlon had drawn. The termites most often followed an ink path made by a ball point pen, she said about her second-place winner in grades 6 to 8.

Upper grade students tried their math skills in “Algebra Adventure,” created by Mila Ortiz, a tenth-grader. Contestants had to solve algebra problems in order to move their pieces on a game board she created. Ortiz won first place in the math division among ninth to 12th graders. Dylan Esham won second place.

Third-grader Petros Burleson created a coding system for robots in his project “Coding with Dash.”

Katie Kinion and Maggie Evans’s optical illusion project “Now You See Me, Now You Don’t” measured which gender sees which optical illusion first, using some well known optical illusions, such as a vase/face, duck/rabbit and old woman/young woman.

“Women see the faces first in the vase picture,” Katie explained.  There’s no right answer. The project showed brain development in male and females. 

“We’re all different,” she said.

Fifth-grader Shayna Brooks captured first place in the grade 3 to 5 entries in art and best of show for her “Seed Bombs,” in which she created clay jewelry with seeds inside. After making necklaces out of the seeds, you can throw them on the ground to sprout plants, she said.

Lee Brimmage Jr, N.C. Cooperative Extension, 4-H Youth Development director, hands out the awards.

“I’m just blown away by these projects,” Lee Brimmage Jr, N.C. Cooperative Extension, 4-H Youth Development director, told the parents and community members watching the awards as he presented the honors. “The enthusiasm y’all have is second to none.”

Other best-in-show winners, who also won first-place in their grade divisions, were Essie O’Neal, grade three, science; Gabriel Brown, grade five, technology; Noah O’Neal, grade five, engineering; and Sawyer DeVan, fourth grade, math.

Other division winners were as follows:

Science: grades 3 to 5, second place Caroline Stocks. Grades 9 to 12: Colby Austin first, and Karen Jordan, second.

Technology grades 3 to 5: Gabriel Brown, first; Nicholas Cole and Danny Badillo, second.

Engineering: Grades 3 to 5: Gavin Elicker, second.

Art: Grades 3 to 5: Melanie Perez, second place.

To encourage students to pursue science-related careers and businesses to continue investing in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper on April 2 declared April as STEM Education month.

Hiring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields continues to outpace the hiring average across all industries in North Carolina, Cooper said in a press release.

 “The number one question employers considering North Carolina ask me is whether our workforce has the skills needed to do the jobs they want to create,” Cooper said. “A rigorous STEM education can also help students to develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are important for success in today’s economy.”

Katie Kinion shows how her and Maggie Evans’s optical illusion project, “Now You See Me, Now You Don’t,” measured which gender sees which optical illusion first.


Third-grader Essie O’Neal’s project about cats won best of show in science in her grade category.
A project about the sun.
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