Zoe James likes reptiles. Sophie Brodish wants to be an ophthalmologist.
The two best friends combined their interests to produce a middle-school science fair project they both enjoyed creating.
The girls, both 13, were among 600 students setting up to showcase about 450 projects Monday at the Central California Regional Science, Mathematics and Engineering Fair at the Fresno Fairgrounds.
Zoe and Sophie, students from Alta Sierra Intermediate School in Clovis, placed a mirror inside a lizard exhibit at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo to test whether the mirror changed the lizards' behavior. Their conclusion: the reptiles' behavior did not change.
Ever since James was a young girl, she has always been fascinated with animals.
"I love reptiles," she said. "It was cool because we got to work with them."
This project gave the best friends an opportunity to mix both of their passions.
"I've always wanted to be a ophthalmologist," Brodish said. "This project was really cool because it incorporated her zoo dreams and we got to work with the reptiles and their eyesight."
Jennifer Weibert, who is with the Fresno County Office of Education and is director of the regional science fair, believes the fair sets the foundation for children to succeed. The fair is open to middle and high school students from across the Central Valley.
"The potential to change a kid's life is just amazing," Weibert said. "It's great for kids to experience this for themselves and when it pays off, it can really change the rest of their lives."
On Monday evening, high school students' creativity was put to the test as judges, mainly university professors, interviewed each student on the process and results of each project, ranging from earth science to biochemistry. Four projects out of the senior division will get the chance to go to the International Science Fair in Los Angeles.
"It's life changing for kids to go to the international fair," Weibert said. "Just for attending, colleges will personally call kids offering them scholarships."
For 15-year-old Nathan Fennacy, a freshman at Buchanan High School, his goal is to be one of the four students selected to go to the international fair.
Fennacy, who has been participating since sixth grade, said he loves being challenged by the judges.
"You feel very accomplished with yourself once you get the board all set up," he said. "To me learning is fun and science is just absolutely amazing because you can do so much with it."
The first-place winners, in both senior and junior divisions, will be announced Wednesday and will advance to the California State Science Fair held in April in Los Angeles.
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