OGDEN -- Ashley Wood, a sixth-grader, suspected men might be more observant of their surroundings than women are.
Sixth-grader Preston Smith grew up hearing about the time his father's house burned down and wondered if some woods are more flammable than others.
And eighth-grader Hunter James wondered if heating or freezing paintballs could enhance his accuracy when shooting his uncles during family paintball battles.
All three students got their answers by doing experiments good enough to qualify for the Ritchey Science & Engineering Fair of Utah.
The junior division was Monday at the Dee Events Center, and the senior division is set for Wednesday afternoon. All students invited already have won or placed in their schools' science fairs.
On Monday, 340 projects -- including trifold poster board displays made by Davis, Weber, Box Elder, Morgan and Cache County students -- filled the Dee Events Center's hall.
"Students get all kinds of experience doing their projects," said Dawn Gatherum, Weber State University botany professor and the man in charge of the event.
"They learn about scientific processes, and they learn how to express their ideas, but they also become better thinkers and students."
The fair is a tradition.
"We've been doing this for 45 years, and it's been a great opportunity for thousands of students to become conversant with science, and to improve how they present themselves," Gatherum said. "It's a great opportunity to participate, and it builds confidence."
Hunter, a 14-year-old West Point Junior High School student, said he loves paintball wars with his father, uncles and cousins, so he thought he would do some practical research.
He froze 10 paintballs, heated 10 others to 200 degrees, and set aside 10 others as his room-temperature control group.
His control balls hit on average 7 centimeters from the center of his target.
His heated paintballs hit on average 6 centimeters from the center of his target, but they broke up more, so the impact was lessened and the gun clogged.
His frozen paintballs shot unpredictably and hit an average of 17 centimeters off target. Hunter believes the frozen paintballs formed bubbles inside, changing weight distribution.
"I probably need to test more," said Hunter, an aspiring engineer. "But I probably won't ever test them on my uncles. The frozen ones hit you hard -- I know from playing paintball in the winter."
Ashley, a 12-year-old North Ogden Elementary School student, tricked her 10 male and 10 female subjects.
Around her living room, she arranged objects, such as eight fake snowmen, cereal boxes, pictures, CDs and a karaoke machine. She then asked each subject to wait in the living room while she set up her experiment in the next room.
After 60 seconds, she guided each subject into the other room and asked him or her to record any objects remembered from the living room.
"It was really close, but the men did slightly better," said Ashley, an aspiring veterinarian and zookeeper.
"None of the men saw a big snowman with a red scarf, which was next to the sofa. More women remember the pictures, and more men remembered the karaoke machine."
Ashley said she was happy with the results.
"And I have really enjoyed seeing the projects other people worked on," she said. "They are all so interesting."
Preston, an 11-year-old from Bountiful's Muir Elementary School, cut and weighed identical squares of three types of softwood and three types of hardwood. He applied a blowtorch to each for 90 seconds and weighed the wood again.
Preston guessed right that the hardwood would burn more slowly, although the difference was only 1.4 percent more loss of mass.
"I just like experiments," Preston said.
But Preston doesn't think he'll be a scientist.
"This is fun, but I really want to be an actor," he said. "I like theater. I've been in a play.
"My parents say I always try to be the center of attention, so that's my plan."