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July 8th, 2011

Magical Microbes Winner at UMass, Amherst

Pic 1: Sona getting ready to do an experiment in Derek Lovley’s lab at UMass, Amherst; Pic 2: Sona and mud battery; Pic 3: Sona and Ashley Franks in the lab; Pic 4: Guided by Graduate Student Jessica Smith, Sona performs an experiment in the lab; Pic 5: Sona visits animal lab at UMass.

July 8th, 2011

Super Stuff for Sports Winner at the School of Polymers & High Performance Materials

Pic 1: Peyton playing golf; Pic 2: Peyton and Daniel Savin (Assistant Professor of Polymer Science & Engineering) in his lab at the School of Polymers & High Performance Materials; Pic 3: Peyton and Olivia McNair (AGEP Scholar – Chemistry, PHD Candidate – Sports and High Performance Materials);
Pic 4: Peyton in Daniel Savin’s lab; Pic 5: Peyton in Daniel Savin’s lab; Pic 6: Peyton and Daniel Savin (Assistant Professor of Polymer Science & Engineering) in his lab at the School of Polymers & High Performance Materials; Pic 7: Peyton and Daniel Savin (Assistant Professor of Polymer Science & Engineering) in his lab at the School of Polymers & High Performance Materials.

June 22nd, 2011

June 14, 2011

We woke up early to drive back to Boston. Since our flight was late in the afternoon we had decided to go to the Boston Science Museum. There we saw the dinosaur exhibition, that had lots of real dinosaur bones, and some that you could touch! We looked in the math area, and read about woman in science. We also saw a movie about Sue, the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered. I learned about how she was found, why they think she died, and why she was preserved this well. While I would have loved to stay longer, we had to leave because we had to go to catch our flight. We drove to the airport returned the car and jumped into the plane to start a whole new adventure in Washington D.C. and New York City! The trip to Boston was so much fun – Mr. Metzner and his team really went out of their way to make it an unforgettable experience – My only regret is that I am too old to enter it again – But now that I know how it feels to win I am going to seek out similar competitions – So watch out world – I will be back soon! ciao for now

June 22nd, 2011

June 13, 2011 (My day at UMass Amherst)

It was so much fun. I got up early since we had to be there at around eight-thirty, and ate breakfast. My mum and I then carpooled with Mr. Metzner to UMass Amherst. At the parking lot we were given a warm welcome by science writer Janet Lathrop  & her colleague who presented both of us with t-shirts. Then we went inside and I met the scientists: Ashley Franks, and Derek Lovely. They showed me a presentation on what they do in the lab, and told me that we would be doing some of the experiments that day. They then gave me some more t-shirts, the Kids Science Challenge winner’s certificate, and a notebook to record data in.

Then the fun experiments began. Ashley led me to a lab where his one of his colleaguesRoberto showed me microbes that breathe in Uranium like we breathe in oxygen. Then he took a test tube that was just plain Uranium (test tube 1) and a test tube that had the microbes with the Uranium (test tube 2) in it and put them in UV light. We had to wear special equipment since UV light can make you go blind. In the UV light test tube 1 lit up bright neon yellow, and test tube 2 lit up as a peach color. Roberto told me that if we every needed to cleanse water that had been contaminated with Uranium we could use these microbes.

Then we headed down a few stairs to meet Jessica(another scientist in the lab) there I got to fill my own test tube with microbes by injecting needles filled with them.  Then carefully carrying my test tube we walked to the oven which looked more like a mini fridge than a oven. I had to wear special gloves(oven mitts) since it was about 200 degrees in there. I put my test tube amongst the many that already lay there. The point of the experiment was to demonstrate how fast the microbes multiply under high temperatures – the reason behind which is unknown - She promised that she would send me pictures of it after it starts growing.

Then it was break and we went back the place where I first met the scientists. There was coffee, tea, and pink lemonade. Plus cookies and fruit. There was also a reporter who interviewed  me (

Then it was time to make a microbial fuel cell kit with Ashley Franks. We first went into this sealed chamber to see some of the ones that he had made. And he showed me one that has been powering a little light for a year! Then it was time to make one. He showed me that we were going to make the easiest one: a one from kit. We opened up the kit to find a plastic container, a chip, wires a l.e.d. light etc. Ashley had already gotten fresh mud from a local pond, and was telling me that the more that the mud stinks the more better it will work. Then I took handfuls of rotten-egg-smelling mud and put it in the plastic container. Then on top of that goes a black foam piece that had a wire connected to it. Then we put more mud and another piece of foam with a red wire. We poured some water on top to make sure that the mud doesn’t dry out. Then we took the two wires and pulled them through the two holes on the top and attached them to the little chip then we put the light on the chip, and in a few weeks the light will start flickering. Ashley even gave me my own to take home to CA and send him the results to compare which mud is better.

After we headed down to the cafeteria where we had an amazing lunch. I did not know that university cafeterias served exotic food like pad thai noodles – And they even had a waffle maker where u could make one from scratch!

Then began my fun afternoon schedule. My first stop was Professor Susan Leschine.  She talked to me about green biofuels she has made. She showed me the anaerobic where they keep all tests that that they need to be conducted in oxygen deprived conditions. Then she got a slide with microbes on it and put it under a microscope so we could see these microbes move they can move as much a the average person can run in proportion to their size. It doesn’t look like they are moving but you can see little squiggles. Then we talked about science and my idea.

Next we went to Professor Duncan Irschick who studies reptile motion. He showed us lizards, geckos, a bearded dragon, and a turtle.  We also tried an experiment. We put a lizard on a ramp tilted upward to see if it would run but it didn’t. Then we tried a gecko because we thought that might stick better since its feet can stick upside down. It did run up, except at the end it jumped in to the camera, and when Duncan tried to catch it, it fell into the tank with the turtle and got mad since it hates water.

Lastly I went to meet Peg Riley. She showed me her three mascots: Charles Darwin the bearded dragon, Monty the python, and Doc the parrot. She and her use the three fun animals as props when they visit local school and teach young kids about science. They said they hope to extend this program to CA and that maybe I can help out. They gave me magnets, pins, another t-shirt, and pens. Then they showed me polymers, and when I said that I don’t have them they gave me a almost full pack. Plus a pack of cards with facts on the side.

After all that fun we went back to the hotel changed and went out for dinner with my family, Mr. Metzner  and a number of the members of the UMass faculty to a great place called Fresh Side. After a nice meal and some yummy ice cream we returned to the hotel – But I still had too much energy so my sister and I decided to head to the pool where we swam and played  until Midnight  -  A great way to end an amazing day.

June 21st, 2011

June 12, 2011

We left the hotel really early, and checked out, and left our baggage with the front desk. We soon got onto the T and got off at Harvard Square and walked around looking for breakfast, when someone recommended Zoe’s. We walked along way until we found it. After we walked around the Harvard campus and I recognized some of the places from The Social Network. Later we walked all the way to MIT, where we got to go inside the the main building and see some of the labs, and classrooms(from the outside). We found the subway, took it back to the hotel and grabbed our luggage and drove to Amherst which took about an hour and met Mr. Metzner for dinner at Paul and Elizabeth’s. The food was amazing. And by the time we checked in to our hotel it was super late, but
was not tired at all(I was excited about the next day, when I get to meet the scientists). (photos: 1. MIT 2. Harvard)

June 12th, 2011


Yesterday was great, except for the rain. We started by going to Dunkin Donuts to have breakfast, then we went looking for the freedom trail(picture below). After walking in the trail, and seeing places like Graveyards and churches we stopped for lunch at the famous Faneuil Hall. After  a yummy bagel pizza we walked to the aquarium and saw lots of fish. I got to hold a starfish, and also touch a stingray  and mini shark. Then we walked to North End where we to the famous Mike’s Pastry. I got an Oreo  cannoli, while my sister got a pistachio – They were yumilicious!!. We  were all too tired to walk so decided to take the train (Boston T) back to the hotel, where I just collapsed and slept like a baby until this morning. We are about to leave for a whole new  day of adventure – We are starting with a trip to Harvard Square  so we can see the university and then who knows where . . . . . And I can’t wait for the day tomorrow when I get to meet all the amazing scientists at the University. See you later

June 11th, 2011

In Boston!

Yesterday, at around 5 pm EST I arrived in Boston. But before we could explore the city we had to get our baggage and our rental car. On the way to our hotel we went through The Big Dig (a set of tunnels that go underneath the bay and the city). Our hotel is amazing, they have crystal chandeliers every where and chocolates on the bed with the next day’s weather, they also have a pillow menu, and a bath menu. For dinner we went to a little place called Thai Basil, after dinner we walked around and got yogurt from a little shop.  After about a hour of walking we headed back to the hotel, saw the old church that was built in 1666!

Today, we are going to walk the freedom trail. I learned about all of this stuff two years ago in 5th grade, and it is really cool to actually see it now. Then we are going to the science museum and the aquarium and maybe the skywalk. Today there is a parade going so most of the roads are closed, so instead of driving we will be walking and taking the T every where

June 9th, 2011


I got out of school today, which means that I am a seventh grader now and am not able to enter the challenge again. But that also means that tomorrow I am flying down to Boston to start my adventure with the scientists. I can not wait! -SD

May 21st, 2011

Yesterday we spent about 5 hours in the lab.  First, we repeated my initial experiment but at temperature extremes.  We froze a ball with liquid nitrogen and heated a ball in Dr. Savin’s oven to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  We then measured the balls’ bounciness.  We learned the ball doesn’t have to be incredibly hot but it should not be overly cold in order to perform normally.  I think I’ll rename the ball warmer a ball preserver since it is only important to keep it from getting overly cold.  Dr. Savin next showed me around the lab which was incredibly interesting.  He has 3 amazing types of microscopes.  Next Olivia and I made golf balls out of a new polymer to see if we could find a polymer that performed well at different temperatures.  Dr. Savin has a machine called a DMA which measures the energy absorption, the opposite of elasticity, at various temperatures.  Olivia calculated the volume of the golf ball so we could measure out the right amount of material and then we put the material in a golf ball mold and used a UV light to harden the material.  After lunch we went to the University’s accelerator and actually hit the balls we made as well as hit regular balls at different temperatures.  Dr. Savin, Olivia, Mr. Metzner, and I all hit a few balls. There was a lot of pressure on us all to hit a good shot as there were several cameras rolling!   I learned a ton, had a great time, and really appreciate all the time Dr. Savin, Mr. Metzner, and Olivia spent teaching me.  Thank you so much.  Peyton

May 20th, 2011

Yesterday was terrific.  After trying beignets in the French Quarter we drove to Mississippi and met Mr. Metzner for lunch.  He is super nice.  Together we drove to the University and Dr. Savin’s lab.  We started by learning more about polymers.  Dr. Savin explained the effect of heat on polymers, crosslinking, viscocity, and the difference between a plastic set and thermoplastics.  We cut open a golf ball and looked at the polymer inside.  Dr. Savin’s idea is instead of a creating a golf ball warmer to create in the lab a golf ball from a polymer which would perform similarly at different temperatures.  This morning we are going to make a new golf ball and experiment with it.   I’m super excited to head back to the lab today.