Sophomores look science in mouth to win Thomas Worthington event
Wednesday, March 2, 2011 10:56 AM

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By Chris Parker/ThisWeek
Anastasia Schomaker and Veronica Nuez present their projects to judges Raksha Adhikari and Trudy Tuttle during the annual Thomas Worthington High School Science Fair on Feb. 24.

Buy PhotoMercury from dental fillings really is released into the body over time, according to two award-winning Thomas Worthington High School science students.

Samantha Williams and Achinthya Sivalingam, both sophomores, won first place at the Worthington Science Day held Feb. 24 at Thomas Worthington.

The two researched the controversial question of the safety of mercury fillings, using sophisticated equipment that could calculate even small amounts of the dangerous metal.

Being allowed to use the equipment at Ohio State University was a very valuable experience, they said.

The amount of mercury released into the body is small, but could build up over time, especially in the body of a petite person, they concluded.

"These fillings aren't 100 percent safe," Williams said.

She and Sivalingam are planning careers in medicine.

They will take their first-place experiment results and presentation to the district science day at Columbus State Community College on March 19. Top winners that day will go on to the state science day at OSU on May 7.

Nineteen other Worthington projects will also advance to the district event.

Winning fourth place at the Thomas event was sophomore Casey Keegan, who experimented with over-the-counter pain killers to see which ones dissolved fastest.

She placed each in test tubes of hydrochloric acid in the same concentration as found in the human stomach.

The fastest dissolving was Tylenol Rapid Release, at 90 seconds. The slowest of those tested was Advil Liquid Gels, which took 30 minutes to dissolve.

Other top winners were Michael Frankland and Stefka Ruseva, who took second place with their chemistry experiment called CSI Worthington; third place, Kristie Sun, an eighth-grader, for her project called Yogurt Chocolate; and fifth place, Evan Smith and James Burpee, for Osteoarthritis in Dogs CCL.

Science day was judged by science teachers, college students and community members involved in science-related fields.

They looked at the displays, examined methods and results, and listed to presentations before putting their heads together to determine the winners.

Honda engineer Tom Ramsay said he was impressed with the experiments and presentations, and not just with the winners.

"The fact some of them realized they failed was excellent," he said.

Local businesses also donated money so that the top five winners earned a combined total of $550.