Local 6th-Grader Earns Top Honors at California State Science & Engineering Fair

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Norah & her 1st-place winning project
Norah & her 1st-place winning project

Hydesville Elementary sixth-grader Norah Souza won top honors at the California State Science & Engineering Fair for her project, “Trout’n About.”

“My project was about rainbow trout and their habitat and Barber Creek up here in Northern California,” Norah told Redwood News. “And I got the idea when my grandparents said that their community couldn’t repair their road because Fish & Game, they wanted to put a fish ladder in near the road. And so I thought, why not just test the area and see if fish could actually survive there?”

Norah took the initiative and tested the water in Barber Creek before it flows into the Van Duzen. She tested three different spots, including the culvert on her grandparents’ road.

NORAH TOOK THE INITIATIVE AND TESTED THE WATER IN BARBER CREEK BEFORE IT FLOWS INTO THE VAN DUZEN.

SHE TESTED THREE DIFFERENT SPOTS INCLUDING THE CULVERT ON HER GRANDPARENTS’ ROAD.

Norah explained her process: “So first we went, and we measured out ten feet for a stream velocity test, and we dropped an orange peel in the water and timed it and saw how much time it took to go ten feet. And then we did temperature of the water, which we took a sample out of the creek in a mason jar and tested the temperature of it.” Finally, Norah tested the pH level of the water. “I had done some research previously,” she continued, “and it showed that the level that’s ideal for rainbow trout is between 5.5 to 9.0. And what I observed was between a 9.1 to 10pH, so it was a lot more.”

Norah says that while the stream velocity and temperature were in the proper range for rainbow trout, the pH levels were not. “All of the data I gathered was like it showed that the trout were not going to be able to live there, like thrive there.”

Asked how it felt to win, Norah replied, “It felt really good. When I got the news that I had won, I started crying and I was really excited. And Miss McMillan and my mom helped me a lot through all of this, and I’m really grateful to them for that.”

Of this accomplishment, Principal Trone mentioned, “to my knowledge, this is the first state level winner that Hydesville has had.”

All Hydesville Elementary middle school students started generating ideas in October, and the school science fair was in January.

“Then, they have their county science fair for those who make it on,” MacMillan explained. “And then Nora got to go on to state.”

“Then at the state science fair, Nora was selected as one of the first-place winners,” said Principal Trone.

Ms. MacMillan continued, “It’s really just getting them to understand that science isn’t just someone in a lab coat but it can be all different things and even sports has science in it. And so incorporating what they love and seeing that there is science connected to that is really cool.”

Principal Trone said, “we’re super proud of our kids all the time, you know, so it’s really nice when one of them gets recognized at this level.” Ms. MacMillan echoed the sentiment, adding, “I think all of our kids still have done really well. I think watching Nora go this far is awesome. She worked really hard on her project, and even though she gave credit to me like she did a lot of hard work on her own.

Norah’s mother Allisen Souza told Redwood News, “It has been really fun to watch Norah engage with the scientific process at several different levels. I think that doing science projects at school is such a great way to empower kids to know that they can ask big questions and find important answers. You never know how impactful and positive your discoveries can be until you let others know what you found out!”

Norah’s talents extend well beyond science. When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, she responded, “I want to be a professional ballet dancer with the San Francisco Ballet. I’ve been dancing since I was four years old.”