Discovering Science

Imagine back to a time when you could actually receive a prison sentence if you just matched the description of the person who committed the crime.

Austin Gellar, a student at E.T. Hamilton Elementary School, said it wasn’t all that long ago that the authorities would “get” the wrong person.

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Gellar said he dreams of doing criminal investigative work, the kind you see on popular shows like CBS’ “NCIS” and NBC’s “Law and Order.”

So, it’s only natural that he invited his Eastern junior wrestling coach, Voorhees police Detective Mike Chuppe, to help him explain forensic fingerprinting on science fair day on March 1.

Gellar, with the help of his younger brother, Chase, and dad, Jeff, taught captivated classmates and teachers how to lift a fingerprint the old fashioned way.

“Rub your forehead to get the oil from your face and touch the cup,” Austin Gellar told this intrigued reporter.

Once my prints were on the cup, Austin put it in a plastic bag, along with three drops of superglue to draw heat to the prints, he said. He sealed the bag and labeled it like a true detective.

“Come back in 30 minutes and we’ll see if your prints are a match,” he laughed.

Meanwhile, Chuppe showed students how police uses more advanced technology to gather evidence.

Gellar’s project was one of dozens on display last week at the science fair.

The fair, in its fourth year at the school, is a voluntary assignment for students from third- through fifth-grade at the school.

Hamilton’s principal Kristine DiCoio, along with teachers, parents and siblings rallied around the student’s projects. DiCoio said she is continually impressed by the research and work the students put into preparing their projects.

Across the auditorium, students proudly display their tornadoes in a box, optical illusions, exploding volcanoes, dry-ice experiments, homemade circuits, color changing milk and more.

Fifth-graders Ethan Shacket, Conor Riley and Tanner Koch explained to me in vivid detail what a hovercraft is. And they proved it by blowing up a huge balloon and attaching it to a disk with a vent.

As air slowly leaked out, the disc would glide across the table.

Now that’s science.

And for lunch, I was treated to a display called “Fruit Frenzy,” which tested the density of different fruits in tap water.

From Jacob Brocious, Chase Wittbrodt and Tyler Altringer’s project, I learned that a lime sinks because of its density — a lemon does not — because it is less dense.

Surprisingly, an orange with its skin on floats and when removed, it sinks. The boys said it’s because the skin holds space for air to stay in the fruit.

Who knew?

Along my scientific journey, I learned how to mummify various food products from fifth-graders Sophie Ferguson and Michelle Litvak.

And third-grader Benji Ferguson showed his classmates how to create energy from a moving bicycle.

I wrapped up my visit at the science fair with a trip back to the forensic table. Austin Gellar shined a flashlight over my cup, which revealed my own set of prints.

“At least you’re not a criminal,” he laughed.

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