Longfellow student “Heating Up” divisional science fair


Can you interpret the formula Q=cm∆t? Do you have even a clue? If not, you might ask yourself if you’re smarter than a sixth-grader since the formula is the basis of a middle school science fair project.

For Vanessa Padilla, a sixth-grader at Henry W. Longfellow Career Exploration Academy, this group of letters and symbols is central to the science project “Heating Up” she will present this weekend at the city’s Divisional Science Fair. Her project examines the lowest specific heat of copper, brass and iron, and the equation represents the relationship between heat and temperature change.

Padilla’s interest in the topic was sparked by a lesson in her science class led by Dr. Nedra Johnson-Heard. “When she was teaching the lesson on metals I was still very curious, so I talked to her more about it. She encouraged me to research it when she saw what a great project it would be,” said Padilla. With help from her older brother, the young scientist refined her idea and the experimental process, and brought them to Dr. Johnson, who advised her about how to improve the project.

Dr. Johnson worked with her student to make the information clear and concise, and coached her on how to present to the judges. Padilla explains specific heat as “how much energy it takes for something to raise its temperature.” She noted that at the lowest specific heat, the matter will have the biggest change in temperature.

“We covered the physical properties of metals, non-metals and metalloids in class,” said Johnson. When Padilla was interested in learning more, they talked about how to take the concept to another level. Johnson noted that Vanessa was the only student to share her interest in the concept of melting points of metals.

Padilla is excited to present at the divisional level, and calls the experience “amazing.” She hopes to “keep learning about science and get into a good college,” two important goals, especially considering her view that, “Science ties in to pretty much everything!”

Nearly 200 elementary, middle and high school students will compete at the Divisional Science Fair Saturday, Jan. 15, at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Winners will advance to the District Science Fair, which will be held in conjunction with STEM Day 2015, Jan. 31 at Skyline High School.


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