Area students bring smarts to The Sun Science Fair Presented by Orbit Energy & Power

Moorestown Upper Elementary School sixth-graders capture first prize

A helmet should protect your head from injury while playing a sport – at least that’s what Moorestown duo Rafe Cultrara and Advait Wattal thought. So when the Upper Elementary School students kept seeing friends incur concussions during sporting events despite wearing helmets, the sixth-grade scientists got to work.

With a homemade mechanism, Rafe and Advait dropped materials – all with the same volume but in different configurations – from the same height, testing to determine which, if any, would be better than standard helmet material.

Their conclusion?

“All of our materials are better,” Advait said. “Every single one.”

The pair also discovered the shape of the material had a huge impact on performance.

“What’s most surprising to me,” Rafe said, “is it’s not the material that matters, it’s more the configuration.”

On Saturday, June 1, Rafe and Advait presented their findings along with nine other area students at The Sun Science Fair Presented by Orbit Energy & Power. The event, held at Orbit in downtown Mantua, was a juried competition, with the top 10 projects on display during Orbit’s community open house. The company presented checks to the winners.

“For us, it’s all about giving back to the community and paying it forward, making a difference at the end of the day. It’s not just about making a profit,” Orbit owner Sean Angelini said. “It’s about customers, number one. Employees, number two. And profits, number three.”

The live music, food truck, bounce house and other entertainment provided a fun and festive backdrop to Saturday’s science fair. Students manned their tables, eagerly explaining their projects to attendees.

For Sanaa Mehta, 10, of Turnersville, entering the science fair was a no-brainer.

“A lot of times I don’t get the chance to research,” the Whitman Elementary fifth-grader said, “so if I could get a chance to research and win a contest, that would be a great way to learn.”

With global warming a hot topic, Sanaa decided to focus her project on the impact of environmentally-friendly choices in a household to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The most surprising thing she learned?

“This scary fact,” Sanaa said, pointing to a corner of her presentation board. “The rise in global temperature was 2.5 degrees fahrenheit in just the last 100 years.”

Next door to Sanaa, Medford resident and track athlete Patrick Orphanos, 11, wanted to find out what drink would best replenish his electrolytes after a run. He guessed pickle juice – and he was right – for the top producer, but it was the drink that tested the lowest that shocked him.

“Vitamin water,” Patrick said. “Even Coca-Cola and Sprite were both better, with more electrolytes.”

While the Chairville Elementary fifth-grader said reading and writing were his favorite subjects in school, Patrick was quick to add that he enjoys science, too.
“I like to see how everything works,” he said.

The science fair projects ran the gamut, from rectifying impurities in water to testing the power of stain removers. Science-lover Tamara Brockington, 11, chose to focus on coding. The Philadelphia homeschooler looked into how micro-bits could help protect the environment and replace the traditional way humans perform everyday tasks.

“I love coding,” Tamara said, adding science is also her favorite subject. “I love to see what happens and results in experiments.”

After much deliberation, the 10 finalists were whittled down to three, and Orbit presented oversized checks – nearly bigger than some of the winners themselves – to the students. Angelini awarded $3,000 to first place, $2,000 to the first runner-up and $1,000 to the second runner-up. Beck Middle School sixth-grader Kushagra Goel, 11, of Cherry Hill, took home third prize. Patrick Orphanos captured second place, and the top prize went to Rafe Cultrara and Advait Wattal.

Editor’s note: Winners Rafe Cultrara and Advait Wattal submitted a video when they entered The Sun Science Fair. To check it out, see below.

Moorestown Upper Elementary School students Rafe Cultrara and Advait Wattal won first prize in The Sun Science Fair Presented by Orbit Energy & Power. Check out the duo’s video they submitted when applying to be part of The Sun’s fair.