Concrete floats and kids love science at Pratt Liberty Middle School

Ruby Howell
Pratt Tribune
Pratt middle school students who qualified for the State Science Fair with their presentations Friday at the Regional Science and Engineering Fair in Wichita are (from left) Allison Goemann, Dylan Lehman, Jesse Kemper and Charlie Mandl. They are students of Lu Bitter, USD 382 Science Coordinator.

On Feb. 19, 2021, several Pratt middle school students competed at the Wichita Regional Science and Engineering Fair. The team ended up with four students qualifying for the State competition. Lu Bitter, the Elementary Science Coordinator for USD 382 coaches students every year, most of whom have been preparing their presentations since early fall. Biter said that COVID was a big challenge to overcome, but that all the kids were very good at being flexible and figuring things out, like true scientists. 

This year, everything was done virtually and sent in ahead of time. For some, getting the needed materials ready on time was tough due to several students having to battle sickness and quarantines. Each student prepared a written presentation, a timeline with three samples of their notebook, a printed copy of a  powerpoint, a two minute video and an abstract. 

“I do this to offer students a chance to  do advanced work in their area of interest,” Bitter said.“ I also feel it is very important for students to get experiences to put on college applications, job applications, and scholarships.  By attending the KSSED they are meeting and talking with college professors and getting to network.” 

The students who will be attending the state competition in Wichita on March 26 and 27 are Jesse Kemper, an eighth grader with his project “How to Make Concrete Float.” He won his category Material Science and was the Division 2 overall winner. 

Dylan Lehman, a sixth grader, qualified his project “Earth’s Tilting Axis and the LUX of the Seasons.” 

Allison Goemann, also a sixth grader qualified her project “How Planarian React to the Main Ingredients of an Energy Drink.” 

And, Charlie Mandl, a fifth grader, with his project “How Does Gibberellic Acid Affect the Growth of  the Leaves of a Spider Plant” won the Plant Science category and was the Division three overall winner. 

Kemper won his division with his project “How to Make Concrete Float.” He said that he used polystyrene beads from a bean bag chair to make concrete float on water. Kemper has been competing in the science fair for 5 years. He said his favorite thing about the science fair was getting to work with Bitter and coming up with ideas to make the world better. 

“I have always wanted to make a difference and make the world better,” Kemper said. “I could go on forever about what I have learned from being a part of the science fairI have learned to research, make a good first impression, proper presentation, dedication, grit, valor,perseverance, good relationships, and communication.” 

Kemper said he wants to be an engineer in the future and encourages other kids to do a project for the District Science Fair in May. 

Also, Lehman, whose project was about how the Earth’s axes affects the light of our seasons (For example, why summers are hot and winters are cold) said that his favorite thing about being in the science fair is being able to pursue a topic of his own choice. He said that way, he can work really hard on something that really interests him. Lehman has been in three science fairs, and every year he has made it to State. 

“Being in the science fair has taught me, anything is possible,” Lehman said. “You can discover new things about yourself, and explore what you never thought was possible. It has given me confidence in public speaking and in trying new things. I love science because it's so interesting and always expanding. There is lots to learn, and I enjoy trying to figure things out.”

Lehman also plans for a career in science, wanting to focus on climate change and physics.