Two Carson High School girls will move on to the international finals after winning second and third place at the regional science fair at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Alyssa Jensen, 16, placed second for her experiment in psychology, and Alexis Thrower, 16, received third-place honors for testing fecal coliform in local surface water.
"I'm just thrilled for these girls," said science teacher Julie Koop. "Attending nationals will be a life-changing event. It's pretty outrageous."
Jensen tested brain function by asking participants to read aloud the names of colors printed on flash cards. The catch - each color was written in a different color ink.
For example, the word "blue" may have been spelled out in yellow letters. Often, the brain assumes what is written before the word is actually read.
She repeated the procedure, telling subject to read words describing location, but the placement of the word confused the meaning. For instance, the word "bottom" would be located at the top of an object.
"The averages were about identical," she said. "They were equally confusing. It's interesting to see how the brain functions."
Thrower turned to the environmental sciences for her project. She worked with the water reclamation plant to test local water supplies for fecal coliform content, focusing mostly on waters near cow pastures.
She found minimal amounts, but is retesting for her project to submit at the national level.
"I just really like the water," she explained. "So I wanted to do a water-quality test. It's like what we do in class at the Carson River."
In addition to being able to compete at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Portland, Ore., on May 9-14, Koop said the girls will also be exposed to many other opportunities.
There will be 1,200 entries representing 40 countries with $3 million in prizes and scholarships available.
Representatives from the military, universities and corporations will also attend to recruit young talent.
"Even if they don't win in the science fair, they may get another award or a job offer," she said. "The potential is just amazing."
Other winners from Carson High School's science fair, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club, will be on display at the Children's Museum of Northern Nevada throughout the weekend.
"What I'm trying to do is let younger kids know what the older kids are doing and maybe have some sparks lit," said Ken Beaton, museum director. "Hopefully, they'll become interested in science."
Koop encourages students of all ages to begin formulating their science projects now instead of waiting until the last minute next year.
"As soon as the judging is over, they're free to start again," she said. "There's no need to wait. They can even get started over the summer."
Contact Teri Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 881-1272.