College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

High school students win Google Science award with help from Chemistry

Date: July 30, 2014

Kelsey Brennan, Kayla Foley, and Anna Fritz, all students at
Comstock Park High School, were working with John Ball Zoo to
determine the calorie content of several different foods the zoo was
preparing for its animals.  The students intended to describe their
project in an entry to the Google Science Fair.  They constructed a
calorimeter for the purpose, but found by testing samples
with known calorie content that it was not accurate enough.  Their
teacher, Jon Wier, contacted GVSU Chemistry to ask for help.
Prof. George McBane invited the four to come to GVSU in May to use
precision bomb calorimeters.  In a half-day visit the students made
measurements on three different types of animal feed.
The students described the measurements in their Science Fair entry,
and compared the calorie counts being provided to bears and apes at
the zoo to the diets of their wild counterparts.  They found that the
number of calories the zoo animals were receiving was similar to that
of wild animals during times of plentiful food but did not reflect the
large variation in food availability experienced by wild animals.
In July the students found that they had won a Local Award worth $1000
from the Google Science Fair.  Only 33 of these awards were given
worldwide.  Their report can be viewed at
under "Local Award Winners."

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