First Christian School Students Take Top Honors at 2017 Napa County Science Fair

5/25/17: First Christian School (FCS) is thrilled to announce that two of our students were named as Grand Prize Winners at the 2017 Napa County Science Fair, held on May 13th. Projects presented by FCS 6th graders, Shane McGrath and Wyntress Mehelis were selected to lead the Engineering and Scientific Method categories, respectively.  Two other FCS students received First Place prizes at the same event, including Gemma Bahnsen, representing the 7th-8th grade, and Annika Meyering , representing 6th grade.

Shane McGrath’s winning Engineering project demonstrated how to create a mechanical hand out of everyday materials. The challenge was to see if the mechanical hand could perform the same tasks as its human counterpart. Using simple drinking straws, wood, string and other materials, Shane built a hand over a three day period…with a little power tool assistance from dad! Prior to beginning the building process, Shane researched the anatomical workings of the human hand in order to be as accurate as possible in his re-creation. This extra research helped Shane to expand upon the original project concept and add more lifelike features. This included the use of cotton balls for fingertips and a rubber glove to represent human skin. “It was a very big project to put together, but worth it in the end,” Shane said. “It felt like a very big accomplishment to win the Grand Prize and have my picture taken with the Mayor of Napa!”  Shane is no stranger to the top step of the Science Fair podium, having taken First Place in the 2016 event as well…certainly a prodigy in the making!

Wyntress Mehelis’ Scientific Method project was titled Can water float on water and why do we care?”. It highlighted the thermohaline conveyor belt: how salt water and cold water work together to heat and cool the planet. Wyntress learned how ocean currents move water around the world, and how cold, salty water is dense and sinks to the bottom of the ocean, while less dense warm water remains on the surface. This served as the basis for her demonstration.  The entire Mehelis family got involved in the intricate testing process of merging bottles of fresh and salt water to show the floating effect. Wyntress’ project emphasized the importance of the global conveyor belt; without such, northwest Europe and even parts of the east coast of America would be much cooler. This would affect temperatures and what could grow in those regions, possibly making it harder to live there. In short, if the global conveyer belt were to stop, there could be a mini ice age. The big picture was not lost on Wyntress. “Global warming is a real problem, and the conveyor belt has a major impact on temperature control,” she said. “I was shocked and happy when my name was called as Grand Prize Winner. That was my very first time at a county science fair!”

Shane and Wyntress each received Kindle Fire devices and Amazon gift cards as part of their Grand Prize packages, both of which were immediately put to good use. “We are so proud of the performances and ingenuity displayed by all First Christian students in this year’s Science Fair,” said Dawnelle Ellis, First Christian School Administrator. “All of our students did so well, and to have two Grand Prize winners representing the entire Napa Valley is both an honor and a blessing. It demonstrates the combined dedication of students, teachers and parents to teamwork, experimentation and academic excellence.”

Additional FCS participants in the 2017 Napa County Science Fair were Ashley Blake Neumann, Wyatt Paulson and Ciana Susa, all representing the 5th grade.

Napa Valley Unified School District Superintendent Patrick Sweeney, right, and Napa Mayor Jill Techel, second from left, honored Napa Valley Science Fair Grand Prize Winners Shane McGrath (First Christian School, Napa), Wyntress Mehelis (First Christian School, Napa) and Eva Wendel (Blue Oak School, Napa). Eva's father Chris, left, filled in for her as she had to leave early for a Lacross match. Image: Samie Hartley, Napa Valley Register.