Science is in the air

Holly Dabb photos Ally Moller shows the charts she developed while testing luminol on different surfaces in a controlled environment. Her project showed that humidity impacts how the luminol reacts to different surfaces.

Pinedale Middle School students bring home state honors

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

300 Masters.

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

and awards.

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

or pets.

“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

were accurate.

“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.”

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