Sixth-grade Brookfield School student wins science fair

Connor Luong, 6th grader from Brookfield School in Sacramento, California, was awarded a $1,000 prize by the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) on Saturday, February 7.

Connor withhis prize-winning project

Luong participated in the Dig It! Science Fair, sponsored by SSSA and The California Museum. SSSA is also the sponsor of the Dig It! exhibit at the CA Museum.

Created in celebration of the International Year of Soils in 2015, the CA Museum challenged students across California in grades 2-7 to develop an original hypothesis on how a particular factor impacts soil erosion. Students were required to conduct a controlled experiment to test their hypothesis and document their findings in a written report.  Connor successfully demonstrated how thermal expansion of sea water can lead to rising sea levels and cause soil erosion along coast lines. 

As soon as Connor heard about the Dig It Science Fair Project Contest, he thought it would be a great chance to explore more about soil science.  “As I did my research, I discovered a country called Kiribati which will be under water by 2050 due to sea level rise,” says Connor. “I was intrigued, and decided to demonstrate how and why sea level rise is affecting soil erosion.”Connor recreated his soil erosion project.

Using a plastic water bottle, food coloring, a straw, and a ruler, Connor was able to measure the water rising inside the water bottle. By shining a heat lamp on the water bottle, he was able to track the water’s height as time went on.  After 45 minutes, the temperature rose from 72 degrees Fahrenheit to 113 degrees Fahrenheit causing the water to rise seven centimeters.  This experiment clearly showed how the thermal expansion of water can lead to rising sea levels.

Next, Connor showed how rising sea levels contribute to soil erosion.  After creating a mini beach in a small plastic tub, Connor added water and began shifting the tub back and forth.  As more water was added to the tub, more of the shoreline began to erode.  This further supports the fact that when temperatures increase, the height of our oceans, lakes, and rivers increase which leads to soil erosion. 

Jan Hopmans, past president of SSSA and faculty at UC Davis, presented Connor with the prize check during a ceremony at the CA Museum on February 7.  “Connor did a wonderful job with his project on soil erosion, and I think he will be fantastic in speaking about the importance of soils,” says Hopmans. “Hopefully, he will choose a career that advocates for healthy soils as an essential part of our living environment.”

Jan Hopmans presents the award check to Connor

“Connor had a clear and concise problem statement, which is not easy to write,” says Katelin Alldritt, a graduate student at UC Davis who has worked closely with the CA Museum on the exhibit. “His methods, results and conclusions were strong and clearly presented.  But I think what I enjoyed the most from his project was how he linked a well-known concern of climate change—sea level rise—with soil.”

Excited about his project and eager to learn more, Connor hopes to do further research on how sea level rise can impact crop production loss. 

In addition to the monetary award, Connor’s project will be featured on the Museum’s website and displayed in the lobby through the end of the “Dig It! The Secrets of Soil” exhibit on March 29, 2015.  Connor hopes to use a portion of the money to buy an iguana as a pet, but will save the rest for college.

To learn more about the Dig It! exhibit, visit SSSA’s Dig It! page:

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