Rocky Mountain Chapter - Educational Outreach

Advancing the Science and Technology of Materials, Interfaces, and Processing

The AVS Rocky Mountain Chapter supports a wide range of educational programs. Our Chapter provides awards for outstanding students through the Colorado State Science Fair. We team with the Colorado Association of Science Teachers (CAST) to provide monetary awards to outstanding physical science teachers at the elementary, middle and high school levels. The Chapter sponsors one teacher each year to attend the Science Educators Workshop at the International AVS Symposium.

Colorado Science & Engineering Fair  -   April 10, 2014

Our chapter sponsors a special award at the Colorado State Science & Engineering Fair, for projects in physical sciences and engineering.   Prizes are $100 for first place and $50 for second place, in both Senior and Junior Divisions.  Prizes are awarded to each student and a matching award is given to each winner's teacher/sponsor.    We hope these awards encourage students to continue on to even more exciting careers in science & engineering.  Year after year, the level of these students' scientific understanding, their hard work, and above all, their curiosity and enthusiasm, are truly inspiring.

This year's judges:

J Grant Armstrong - Carberry Technologies

Jennifer Drayton - Colorado State University


This year's winning students and their projects:

Junior Division - 2nd Place (Tie)


Student:                   Isabel Dalmer - 6th grade

Project:                    Strong Box, Weak Box

School:                     Liberty Middle School, Aurora

Sponsor:                   Lorry B Getz

Abstract:    My question was: if I built 5 designs of boxes, utilizing the designs of X design, triangle (V) design, plus (+) design, diagonal bar design, and a plain box design, which one would hold the most mass?   My original hypothesis was that the X design would hold the most mass because it applied support to all four corners of the cube. However, I discovered that the triangle (V) design was actually the strongest. The triangle design held on average 23,350 grams. The X design held the second most at 20,381 grams, followed by the diagonal design at 13,099 grams, the + design at 9,679 grams, and the plain box at 2,357 grams. I think the triangle (V) design was strongest because it applied support not only to the top two corners, but also to the bottom middle, making it overall stronger. In conclusion, the triangle (V) design used less material than the X design, yet holds the most mass. This experiment helped me understand the strengths of different box designs, so this could be applied to areas such as architecture and construction. What I learned from my experiment could be used for building skyscrapers and apartments, which could help make them taller and stronger.

Junior Division - 2nd Place (Tie)


Student:                   Victoria Dunivan - 7th grade

Project:                    Sensor Arrays

School:                     Walsh Jr/Sr High School, Walsh

Sponsor:                   Lindsey Vincent

Abstract:    The purpose of this experiment was to make a multi gas sensor. You can buy many gas sensors that can sense one type of gas, but not one that can sense all five of the main gases that are produced after something rots. The five types of gases that are usually produced during decomposition are: hydrogen sulfate, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane.  This experiment involved making a sensor out of sensor arrays, copper wire, and a circuit board. To actually test this, I needed water to insert gas into a graduated cylinder and enclose the sensor in a bag free of air. Next, I found the differences between the starting point and final point of the sensor. Then I calculated how much gas is sensed, according to the calibration curve.  The outcome of this project was pretty much as I expected, except for the fact that the resistance (in Kilohms) went down as it was introduced to the gas. When starting this project, I intended to make the sensor and also test it on rotting material but because of my lack of time and resources, this became a project by itself.  These findings lead me to understand that designing and creating sensor arrays can be difficult and tedious. Of the five sensors proposed, only two of the sensors were functional. The methane and hydrogen sensors were successfully made and the carbon dioxide sensor was made but did not calibrate correctly.

Junior Division - 1st Place

Student:                       Fiona Anderson - 8th grade

Project:                        Liquid Invisibility Cloak

School:                        Summit Middle School, Boulder

Sponsor:                      Peter Teasdale

Abstract:   The purpose of this study was to investigate the visibility of glass objects immersed in liquids. I hypothesized that if a glass object is immersed in a liquid having a similar or the same refractive index as that of the glass, the liquid will create an “invisibility” cloak around the object. In such a case one could determine the refractive index of an unknown glass material from the known liquid refractive index.
Several glass objects were immersed in over 20 types of liquids. The liquids included common household liquids such as dishwasher soap, vinegar, and sugar water, various solvents available from the local hardware store, and several essential oils from an apothecary. The visibility of each glass object was recorded as it was immersed sequentially in the liquids.  It was found that jasmine oil, which has a refractive index of n= 1.475, acted as a good cloak for a glass stirring stick. Similarly, 4-mm diameter glass spheres (used for ball bearings) were made nearly invisible by toluene (paint thinner), which has an index of n = 1.496.  The experiments revealed that glass objects could be made invisible by immersion in a liquid. As the refractive index of jasmine oil is within 0.001 of that of Pyrex, it was concluded that the stirring stick is made of Pyrex. The refractive index of toluene is very close to some types of crown glass, therefore it was concluded that the spheres were made of crown glass.

Senior Division - 2nd Place

Student:                       Matthew Hileman - 10th grade

Project:                        Cube Satellites: Miniature Satellite Design and Operations for Pulsed Plasma
                                      System Applications

School:                        The Classical Academy - College Pathways, Colorado Springs

Sponsor:                      Jon Thompson

Abstract:    Miniature satellites are revolutionary to the space industry. Most do not function more than a year or even four months, but they are inexpensive, light weight, and quickly produced. This engineering project focuses on engineering software and hardware to create a functioning miniature satellite.  My methodology is of the following: (1) gather information, (2) set budgets for the project, (3) develop hardware and software evaluation criteria, (4) implement the solutions to needs and test, (5) test hardware function, (6) test hardware durability in vacuum, (7) test hardware function in vacuum, (8) develop and improve hardware and software, (9) integrate software and hardware to form systems, and (10) integrate systems together for satellite.  The following restrictions were set: the satellite costs under $1000, has a mass no more than 1000 g, and does not consume more than 6 watts of power. Budgets were revised over time.  A functioning 2U cubesat was created with the payload of a pulsed plasma thruster (PPT) system in mind. Only one PPT prototype was created and tested minimally. In the flight control system, the satellite is able to rotate based on IMU readings, identify it’s location above the earth, read temperature, read pressure, and store data. In the power system, the satellite uses two mono-crystalline solar panels and a Ni-MH battery pack for power. The communications is a bluetooth serial port for demonstration. The computer is a Arduino Mega micro-controller.  More PPT testing and design will be done in the future.

Senior Division - 1st Place

Student:                       Casey Zhang - 10th grade

Project:                        An Analytical, Numerical, and Experimental Study of Solitons in Optical Fiber

School:                        Fairview High School, Boulder

Sponsor:                      Nathan Newbury

Abstract:    In optics, a soliton is an optical field that remains the same through propagation due to a cancellation between nonlinear and dispersive effects in optical fiber. Generally, the shape of an optical pulse changes depending on the Kerr effect and dispersion. However, under certain conditions, the Kerr nonlinearity exactly cancels out the dispersion, and the shape of the pulse is preserved. In this study, the research objective was to find the pulse energy required to theoretically achieve a soliton in the Corning® SMF-28e® Optical Fiber.  We first consider the fundamental hyperbolic secant soliton solution of the Nonlinear Schrödinger Equation. We then consider the pulse energy, the temporal integral of the optical power of the pulse, and derive the numerical value of the exact pulse energy necessary to create a soliton in the SMF-28e®. Then, this pulse energy is tested using Fiberdesk V4.0, a program that simulates the propagation of light by solving the Nonlinear Schrödinger Equation using a split-step Fourier transform.
The function of pulse energy of the fundamental soliton is inversely proportional to the pulse duration. For a soliton with a full-width at half maximum (FWHM) pulse duration of 1 ps, the pulse energy function yields a pulse energy of 50.9 pJ.  Optical fibers are widely used for telecommunication. Any signal that carries information contains a range of frequencies. The propagation speed of a wave depends on the frequency, so transmitted pulses tend to break up due to dispersive spreading. When this dispersion is cancelled by the nonlinear effects to create a soliton, pulses can be transmitted over long distances, which is necessary in telecommunication.