OGDEN -- Yes, it is possible to train a goldfish to do a trick.
That's the scientific finding of budding researcher Carver Booth, a student at Eden's Valley Elementary, and one of more than 420 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders presenting their work Tuesday at the Weber School District Science Fair.
Booth suffered a major research setback with his test subjects -- trainee fish Franklin, fed with a flashlight pointed into his bowl, and control fish Victor, fed without added illumination.
"Everything was going fine until about day 13, when my little cousin fed Franklin a large amount of taco seasoning, and three days later he was found belly up in his bowl," Booth reported.
So Booth made Victor his new trainee, and the surviving fish did, indeed, learn to swim to the surface when a flashlight shone.
Students from 28 schools arrived with 325 solo or partner projects, set up in Weber State University's Shepherd Union ballrooms, to have their projects judged by volunteer experts in related fields. Weber School District high school students do the same today.
"I loved doing this when I was a kid," said Tech Sgt. Rudy Horak, from Hill Air Force Base. He was judging in the transportation and energy categories. "It's great to see the creativity of young minds. It inspires me. One of these students could be the next great inventor."
Kassie Wilson, a Weber High senior with a strong interest in microbiology, judged projects in that specialty.
"My project in sixth grade wasn't the best, but it made me try harder every year, and understand more every year. It made me want to get into this field, which I will study in college," she said.
Chemistry judge Jamison Higgs, a science-savvy sophomore at Ogden's Bonneville High, said competing in science fairs builds student self-esteem.
"If they do well, and they know they did well, they progress through life with more confidence and a sense of accomplishment," he said.
Kathleen Nye, Weber School District curriculum coordinator, said there are multiple benefits.
"We think the science fair really shows them not only the scientific method, but also teaches them interview skills, how to be in front of people, how to present themselves."
Kelton Brandley and Emilio Razo, both 13 and students at Roy's Sandridge Junior High, used a catapult to measure the distance different types of sports balls would travel when launched. The pair built their catapult as a cardboard and duct tape box, fastened to one end of a wooden board, balanced on a base. The boys launched golf balls, baseballs and tennis balls by dropping a counterweight on the other end of the board.
"It's awesome," Brandley said, of the science fair. "This is a good place for kids to figure out how to break world records and change the future."
Neither boy sees his future in science. Brandley wants to be in the Army and Razo plans a career in the Air Force or as a police officer. But they do see the value in science.
"We launched the balls by dropping a really heavy math book," Razo said.