Lakenheath juniors' experiments impress
Stars and Stripes March 29, 2006
RAF LAKENHEATH — Want an edge in the Donkey Kong tournament or a sharper mind for the Sudoku championships? Try some caffeine for a quicker Kong and a lot of water for a flexible intellect.
That’s according to the award-winning science experiments conducted by two Lakenheath High School students.
Matt Miller and Greg Billington recently won first and second place, respectively, at the 32nd annual Junior Science and Humanities Symposium for the region. The event was held last month at Patrick Henry Village Pavilion in Heidelberg, Germany, and brought together 115 DODDS students from 20 schools.
The two juniors claimed the top spots with experiments that measured the impact of everyday substances on the human body.
Miller, who claimed a $2,000 scholarship for what he described as a “really simple little project,” found inspiration in video games.
“When people play games, they drink Bawls, which has a ton of caffeine, and you’re a better gamer,” he explained. “I wanted to see if that was true.”
His experiment focused on eight participants who conducted a series of reaction-time tests both before and after chewing caffeine-charged gum.
Miller found that the presence of caffeine cuts reaction time, just as he had hypothesized.
Billington, meanwhile, merged a well-respected fact that hydration affects athletic performance with questions about the brain’s need for liquid.
Under a more rigid set of scientific parameters than Miller’s human experiment, Billington had five males between the age of 16 and 19 abstain from any caffeine, carbonates and alcoholic beverages during a 24-hour period prior to the athletic portion of the experiment.
Well-hydrated participants drank a number of ounces of liquid determined by halving their weight in pounds. A 150-pound man would drink 75 ounces of water in 24 hours. The poorly hydrated were given a third as much, thus a 150-pound man would consume 25 ounces of water.
The participants then took a Stroop test, an exam designed by neurophysiologist John Ridley Stroop in 1935 to provide insight into cognitive effects that are experienced as a result of attentional fatigue.
Billington found that dehydration lessens cognitive function.
His experiment impressed the judges to the tune of second place, which includes a $1,500 scholarship. As juniors, the students have plenty of time to decide where they will use their scholarships.
They also earned their science mentor, Lakenheath science teacher Darryl Brock, a summer trip to Albuquerque, N.M., where he will join the two students at the national Junior Science and Humanities Symposium this June.
“I hope that they are both back next year because we could win it again,” Brock said. “I don’t know if we’d sweep it again, but you never know.”