- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2000

A batch of young scientists yesterday applied the rigors of scientific thought and experimentation to solve the thorniest of consumer questions in a citywide competition.

Questions like: Which toothpaste cleans best? Which brand of paper towels absorbs the most liquid? What makes slime stick?

These and many more were answered by 300 of the city's budding successors to Stephen Hawking as part of the 54th annual District of Columbia Mathematics, Science and Technology Fair.

Every year, hundreds of students, grades 6 to 12, from the District's public, private and parochial schools participate in the science fair. Awards and prizes are given in 15 different categories, including behavioral sciences, computer science, biochemistry and mathematics.

After displaying their science projects at Howard University's Burr Auditorium throughout the weekend, more than 80 students won first-, second- and third-place awards in a ceremony yesterday, accompanied for the first time by cash prizes of $50 to $150.

Howard University hosted the citywide scieintific competition for the second consecutive year.

Many contestants tackled questions about common and practical matters, such as the merits of one mouthwash, toothpaste or acne cream over another.

Some students, such as eighth-grader James Alexander of Hardy Middle School in Georgetown took on a stickier topic slime. As part of his first-place research, James researched the varying properties of fluids including water, soap water and slime.

"I always wondered why razor blades float, but I didn't understand how it works," he said. "I got interested in the surfaces of different liquids."

James said he had fun doing the research. His mother, Colleen Alexander, wasn't surprised.

"All his brothers and sisters are involved in science in some way," she said. "It's a family tradition. Only I am excluded. I had to ask someone what the title of his project meant."

Eighth-grader Aba Tyus, 12, won first place for her project involving the cloning of bacteria. Aba, of the Bridges Academy in Northwest, said she wanted to clone something and bacteria is the simplest organism to do it with.

"It's important technology," she said. "If someone has leukemia and needs another organ, doctors can help them."

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