Four DeKalb Central students won awards in the Hoosier Science and Engineering Fair.
Topping the list, Taylor Davis Gibson won five awards, including first place overall in the fifth-grade division.
Mara Keyes won two awards including third place overall in fifth grade. Both Gibson and Keyes are enrolled at J.R. Watson Elementary School in Auburn.
DeKalb High School junior Sydney Hefty also won two awards.
DeKalb Middle School seventh-grader Silas Refner received one award.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year saw the first virtual judging of the state science fair. Students who qualified at regional fairs submitted their projects with five-minute videos, slide presentations and data such as graphs.
Gibson, 11, of Auburn, took first place by designing an ergonomic paint brush to help her father, Josh, who works as a painter. She said he had developed pain in his elbow tendons.
“It was hard for him to work, because it’s the arm he uses to paint,” Gibson said about her father. “I play softball, and it was hard for us to play together.”
Gibson began by testing a conventional paint brush against an alternative brush design that advertises itself as ergonomic. She asked six volunteers between the ages of 30 and 60 — three men and three women — to paint with the brushes for 14 minutes each.
The test subjects did not like either brush, so Gibson designed her own.
“I wanted it so there were different ways to hold it, and it wasn’t a slippery grip, and I really needed it to be ergonomic,” she said.
She used duct tape and zip ties to attach a bike handle grip to a standard paint brush. It turned out to be a success.
“When they used it, they said they loved it, and it didn’t cause them any numbness or fatigue,” the testers told Gibson.
Even though her brush weighed 6 grams more than the name-brand “ergonomic” brush, it felt lighter to the testers because it was more balanced, Gibson said.
Awards for the state science fair were announced in a live video from Indianapolis on March 28. Gibson said she at first wanted to view the video alone, because she was nervous, but she eventually allowed her mother, Jenn, and grandmother to watch her win five awards.
“I set the bar really high for next year,” Gibson said. She previously had won first place this year at the DeKalb Central science fair and the Tri-State Regional Science Fair, which also was judged on a virtual platform.
Gibson said she enjoys the science fair because it allows her to design things and solve problems.
Since the state science fair, Gibson said, she is using a 3-D printer to make a prototype of her paint brush that doesn’t depend on duct tape.
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