Janna Privette’s Kamiah High School science research students recently attended the North Idaho Science and Engineering Fair in Coeur d’Alene. There were over 80 projects by students from across North Idaho, including three from Privette’s class.
“It was our first trip to the fair,” said Privette. “All three students ended up earning awards, the biggest of which was sophomore Cecily Puckett winning one of two “Best in Fair” awards, earning her an all-expense-paid trip to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Phoenix, Ariz. in May.”
Privette and her students were able to go to the fair thanks to a grant provided by the Idaho STEM Action Center which funded student supplies and travel to the fair.
“It was the first year I’ve ever done a Science Research class, so I wanted to keep it small,” added Privette. “It isn’t technically an official class, but the students do it as an “independent study” where they work in my classroom while I’m teaching another class, but they get science credit for it. I’m hoping to expand it in the future.”
Choosing her project was a challenge, but Puckett finally settled on a comprehensive study about the possible use for equine hair in the medical field.
“I was experimenting with horse hair as a suture material,” said Puckett, a sophomore at KHS. “I was looking to see if color effects how strong the hair is, the tensile strength. I got the tail hair off the horses and categorized them into different colors. There were five different sections; white, blond, light brown, dark brown, and black. I cut them into 30 centimeter lengths; I glued little loops on them and hung them from a little stand and connected slotted weights to them so I could just add on weight to see how much it would take to break.”
Puckett thoroughly studied variables about horse hair including the diameter of each color of hair compared to other colors to see if there was a correlation between hair strength and its thickness or color.
All of her research resulted in the conclusion that the color of horse hair does play a part in how strong it is as well as how thick it is. “White is the strongest and blond is the least strongest which is kind of weird because they are really close in color. We also looked at other independent variables like the diameter; we found that the smaller diameter was stronger and bigger diameter was weaker.”
Puckett said color and diameter were completely random so you couldn’t rely on the darker hair being thicker; it depended totally on the individual specimens. Variables on age of the hair didn’t seem to affect how strong or weak it was.
Her studies concluded that the strongest horse hair of all was thin white hair, which would work the best for suturing a wound closed. “The idea was to be able to use horse hair for stitches in third world countries to lower the price of surgery, it’s a natural material that is easily accessible,” said Puckett.
“You gotta do your best and see how far that takes you,” added Puckett, smiling.
Details on all three students’ projects at the fair and awards are as follows:
Cecily Puckett, sophomore: “Equss callabus Hair as a Suture Material: Equss callabus Hair Tensile Strength as Related to Hair Color”
Awards: ASM Materials Education Foundation Award, Gold Medal, Best in Category (Physical Sciences), Best in Fair (Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2019 Finalist).
Mya Barger, sophomore: “Identifying Changes in Magellanic Penguin Habitat using Remote Sensing”
Awards: NASA Earth System Science Award, American Meteorological Society Award, Silver Medal (Earth, Environmental, and Plants).
Dawson Norman, junior: “Exoskeleton Hand for Patients Who Have Lost the Ability to Write”
Awards: Silver Medal (Math, Computer Science, and Embedded Systems).