August 10, 2008

2 Students in the Running to Be America’s Top Young Scientist

By C Eugene Emery Jr

A boy from Rehoboth and a girl from Barrington are semifinalists in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for middle school students.

Timothy Clancy, of Rehoboth, invoked a rampaging monster to explain why an airplane wing provides lift as air flows over it. Holly Gildea, of Barrington, used more conventional classroom aids to look at why things that go up, don't always come down.

Both did it so well they are among the 44 middle school students in the nation to be semifinalists in this year's Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

Ten finalists will be announced Aug. 20. They will go to Washington, D.C., in October to be part of a competition, hosted by NASA, for the right to earn the title of America's Top Young Scientist. They might also get to appear on the popular Discovery Channel show Mythbusters.

The contestants were required to submit a two-minute video to illustrate a principle important to flight and space exploration, such as Newton's laws of motion.

Timothy turned his presentation on the Bernoulli principle -- which says that the faster a fluid moves, the lower its pressure -- into an old-fashioned monster movie titled Professor Bert Noulli vs. Mastodonic Mutant Monkey.

He plays both the wise professor, who uses the Bernoulli principle to defeat the malevolent mammal, and the creature itself, which is described -- very rapidly -- as "a vicious monster with hurricane-force lungs capable of ripping roofs off houses as if they were made of paper."

"Instead of me just sitting at a desk explaining it, I wanted to make a monster movie, where the monster destroys the town using the Bernoulli principle and the professor saves everyone using the Bernoulli principle," Timothy said.

Shot in black and white because "all the old monster movies are like that," it even includes faux film scratches, similar to what you'd see in old-time monster movies, and a soundtrack straight out of a 1950s creature double feature.

He built the model village in about a week and used a leaf blower to simulate the monster's ability to blow roofs off.

"It took about a week to get all the footage together," said Timothy, 12, who attended Rehoboth's D.L. Beckwith Middle School when he made the video but will be entering seventh grade at the Wheeler School in Providence next month.

The part that depicts the demise of the monster, a giant gorilla with a skull for a head, was shot on his grandparents' farm. He also used their bee smoker to create a fog effect.

"It wasn't that tough once I wrote the script, but there's a lot of editing work," said Timothy. "I finally got the perfect overlay of sound and music."

In Barrington, Holly, 14, who will be a freshman at Barrington High School and says "I really, really like science," became intrigued by the competition after seeing previous winners on Mythbusters, one of her favorite TV shows.

Her two-minute video is a mini-seminar on orbital mechanics, a function of mass and acceleration, and why some flying objects get into orbit while others don't.

"The actual making of the video took a day. The preparation and research took about two months," she said.

"There were many, many takes," Holly said. "It took a bunch of tries, but we finally got it right."

At one point, she spins a yo-yo to illustrate the forces that keep the astronauts going around earth every 90 minutes or so.

"At first, I was planning on cutting the string as if [the yo- yo] had escaped the gravitational field and gone flying off, but I figured I might break a window or something," she said.

When she received the letter saying she was a semifinalist, she "was really surprised.... I jumped up and down, screaming."

Her mother, Jennifer, taped the elation.

But that's a video for another contest.

Portions of their videos can be seen on

The contestants were required to submit a two-minute video to illustrate a principle important to flight and space exploration, such as Newton's laws of motion.

Timothy Clancy, of Rehoboth, plays a professor who defeats an evil monster in the two-minute video he made explaining the Bernoulli principle for the Young Scientist Challenge.

Holly Gildea, of Barrington, in a still from the video on orbital mechanics that she made for the competition. [email protected] / (401) 277-7442

Originally published by C Eugene Emery Jr, Journal Staff Writer.

(c) 2008 Providence Journal. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.