One question leads to
another and the next thing you have is an
experiment. For Pinedale eighth-grader
Ally Moller, she’s hoping her questions
and subsequent answers take her to an
elite science camp in Washington, D.C.,
and maybe earn her $25,000.
Her project at the Wyoming State Science
Fair, titled “Sweltering with Suspicion,”
resulted in her nomination to the
Broadcom Masters Competition. Last
year, a record 2,537 students nationwide
in sixth through eighth grades received
similar nominations. That nomination enables
her to apply and compete for the top
Of those Masters, 30 will be selected
to attend an elite science camp in Washington,
D.C., next October. If chosen, she
will be able to present her project for an
opportunity to win $25,000 or other honors
Moller tied her interest in forensic science
to her science project. The upside?
She got to play with luminol, a chemical
that exhibits chemiluminescence, with a
blue glow, when mixed with an appropriate
oxidizing agent. Forensic investigators
use luminol to detect trace amounts
of blood at crime scenes as it reacts with
the iron in hemoglobin.
Inspired by crime shows like “CSI”
that have settings in different locations,
such as Miami, New York and Las Vegas,
Moller found out that luminol reacts differently
when used at different temperatures.
“I wondered if it would act the same in
a humid climate like Florida as it would in
a dry climate like Pinedale,” Moller said.
She established a controlled environment
– a glass case that was lined – complete
with goggles and gloves.
Next she found a humidifier so she
could measure and control the environment.
Then she tested her theory on the
four most common surfaces including
laminate, tile, carpet and vinyl. Don’t
worry; her experiments did not require
the extraction of blood from fellow classmates
“I used a synthetic blood, since luminol
reacts to iron,” Moller said. Since she
used the same synthetic blood in all her
experiments, she said she felt the results
“The luminol glowed brighter at
40-percent humidity and 90 percent,”
Moller said. The lowest humidity she
could test was 40 percent, which is the humidity
in the school’s science laboratory.
To test any lower, she needed an elusive
dehumidifier. However, visibility
was better with the carpet and porous tile.
Not ready to stand on her first-place
win at State in the chemistry category,
Moller has already added to her data
as her projects stands protected in the
school’s science laboratory awaiting the
hopeful trip to Washington, D.C.
“I’m super excited, but the wait is
nerve-racking,” Moller said. The projects
will be judged over the summer and finalists
will be announced in September for
the October camp.
Science teacher Ron Ruckman at Pinedale
Middle School said he is fortunate to
have a district willing to support science
at the middle school. This year, more than
25 students from his class and the class of
Retta Hudlow completed projects for the
local science fair in February and went
on to compete at Regionals at Western
Wyoming Community College in Rock
“Science gives the students an opportunity
to ask questions and explore the answer,
instead of looking it up on Google,”
Ruckman said. “They have to be thoughtful.”
In Moller’s case, she added to existing
research – something new, Ruckman said.
Ruckman said he is always searching
for working scientists in the community
to inspire students.
“At State you see some of the projects
from Laramie where students have access
to work with a scientist and they are
amazing projects,” Ruckman said. “I want
to build a better network to connect our
Moller was not the only student to be
recognized from Pinedale with State honors.
Anna Lehr placed third in the biochemistry
category for her project “Eggcellent
Chase Dorrity used his passion for
video games to place third in the behavioral
and social sciences category.
His project, “The Effect of Impression,”
tested whether his subjects – also classmates
– performed better on video games
when they were complimented or criticized.
The University of Wyoming Department
of Anthropology offers two $50
awards to students whose projects address
a topic of interest and relevance to
one of the major anthropological research
fields of archaeology, cultural anthropology,
linguistic anthropology or biological
anthropology. In the Junior Division,
Brooklynn Maxam won for her project
“Food for Thought.”
The University of Wyoming Department
of Mathematics and Statistics recognizes
first through third places in both
Junior and Senior divisions. The team of
Jillian Warembourg and Erin Fogerty won
$50 for their mathematical collections in
the project “Measuring Memory.”