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Ideas, ingenuity on display at science fair in Jamestown

Sean Loken, a sophomore from Wishek High School, demonstrates Friday how a solar powered device he created will move and follow the sun, or in this case, a light source. (John M. Steiner / The Sun)

Sean Loken, a sophomore at Wishek High School, had a display of small solar engines set up Friday at the 58th Annual Southeast Central Regional Science and Engineering Fair in Jamestown.

Loken said he has been working on developing small solar engines since seventh grade and has presented his project at the science and engineering fair each year since.

“The goal of this project is to find a solar engine powerful enough to run appliances in places where electricity isn’t readily available,” he said. He said these solar engines could be used to run items like water pumps and maybe even small refrigerators.

Loken’s solar engine display was one of the 105 project displays that students, grades 6-12, from Ashley, Ellendale, Kidder County and Wishek put together for the fair. All of the displays were reviewed by judges from all walks of life. The top 16 projects from the junior and senior high divisions will advance to the North Dakota State Science and Engineering Fair in Grand Forks on April 3-4.

Loken said his older brother started working on a solar project and that is what inspired him to do his solar engine project.

“My dad (James Loken) helped me out quite a bit,” Loken said.

Morgan Schnabel, an eighth-grade student from Wishek Public Schools, said her project was to determine if magnets have an effect on the rate of water flow.

“I used 200 milliliters of salted and nonsalted water,” she said. Schnabel used two different-sized magnets with different levels of magnetic force.

Her hypothesis was that the salted water would flow faster over the larger, more powerful magnet.

“What I found was the nonsalt solution water ran faster over both magnets,” Schnabel said.

This was Schnabel’s second year at the science and engineering fair. Last year her project was finding the fastest method for cooling down a can of pop.

“Use a mixture of ice, water and salt. That is the fastest way,” she said.

Austin Schmidt of Medina is a seventh-grade student at Tappen Public School. His project focused on the docility of cattle and what effect that has on how cattle feed.

“My hypothesis was that docile cattle feed better than cattle that are wilder,” he said.

Schmidt developed a rating scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the most docile and 5 being the most wild. He weighed each cow in this experiment, then sent each cow through a cattle shoot to determine the animal’s docility. Cows that went through the shoot easy without any bucking or jumping were rated a 1 or 2. Cows that jumped or kicked somewhat received a 3 or 4. Cows that jumped out of the shoot or continually kicked or jumped while in the shoot were given a 5.

Two months later Schmidt weighed the cows in his experiment. To his surprise, the wilder cattle weighed more.

“The wilder cattle didn’t wait to go to the food. As soon as they saw it, they went after it,” he said.

Schmidt said this was his second year having a display at the fair and he would like to come back again next year.

“It’s a lot of fun, seeing the different projects,” he said.

Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at

Chris Olson

Hometown: Traverse City, MI College: Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University

(701) 952-8454