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Lenihan student makes science project

Contributed photo — Anessa Morrison shared pictures of her welding, painting and building the model.

Lenihan sixth grader Anessa Morrison has been working on her science project since fourth grade. Her air powered CAES, or compressed air energy storage, system uses a wind turbine made from a computer fan. The wind then collects in a balloon which goes to a generator that is used to power an LED light.

According to a video she made for her project, Morrison first got the idea to study the CAES system from school.

“Well, I studied wind turbines in the fourth grade, and my dad and I built a working model of a wind turbine using a computer fan,” she said. “When the fan spun, an LED light would blink, illustrating that energy was being produced. Afterward, I became interested on how to store energy so it can be used when needed and not just when it’s windy.”

When approaching this complex topic, Morrison found a model would be the best way to not only understand it better herself but also help explain it to others.

“Air powered CAES systems already exist, but I found the concepts difficult to understand. So I decided to develop a model to demonstrate the functionality. The main criterion for this model is that it quickly conveys the functionality of the air powered CAES system in an understandable way,” she said.

Morrison planned on presenting her project in Ames, but the fair was canceled. She was undeterred and submitted the project anyway, receiving a Broadcom MASTERS nomination for participating. Morrison now has the chance to compete in Washington, D.C. with her project.

Vanessa Engel, Extended Learning Program teacher at Lenihan Intermediate School, has nothing but good things to say about Morrison.

“Anessa came to me as a fifth grader, already insanely motivated student, but needed to grow her confidence in her own knowledge and skills. In the Extended Learning classroom, we try to provide students with a venue to take risks in their own learning,” she said.

Engel said science is all about making mistakes and learning from them. She hopes to encourage students to not fear messing up but to see it as an opportunity for growth, as Morrison has.

“Anessa went from inquiring whether she was doing something right to exploring and soaring in her areas of interest. It is important to provide students a place where it is safe to take a learning risk, fail, and then communicate what occurred,” Engel said.

Sixth grader Anessa Morrison’s model demonstrates how an air powered CAES system works.

She helped guide Morrison to her interest 

“I worked with Anessa and other students in exploring their interests and strengths in their science learning,” Engel said. “We learned about the Scientific Method and Engineering Design Process in order that she can understand the big question of why something is happening and conduct research into how something occurs.” 

She also gave Morrison resources, constructive criticism and opportunities to share her work with other students. Engel said she could see Morrison’s growth in not only her scientific knowledge but also her communication skills through the process.

Engel encourages all students to get involved in science projects that stretch them intellectually.

“Science projects such as this are extremely important for students, especially those who have an innate interest or skill level in those areas of learning. The trick is allowing these students opportunities to select their own learning topics and ways to share their learning,” she said. “This gives students more ownership and pride in what they have done and can help them develop connections to how their project fits into the scheme of the real world.”

Engel said when students participate in hands-on learning on a topic they’re passionate about, it will always have the best results.

She said she is “exceedingly grateful” to have taught Morrison during the last two years in a variety of topics, including Project Based Learning, Book Bowl, Continental Math League, Math Bee and Writer’s Workshop.

“I am honored to be her teacher, but the real guiding forces in Anessa’s life are her extremely supportive parents, Matt and Ruzan Morrison,” Engel said. “We teachers always do what we can to inspire and teach our community’s students, but it is really the parents that are the superstars.”

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Contact Anna Shearer at ashearer@timesrepublican.com

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