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Suffolk students search for answers at Brookhaven lab science fair

Michael Canudas, 9, of Coram, explains his Minecraft

Michael Canudas, 9, of Coram, explains his Minecraft experiment as 118 schools from Suffolk County participate in the 2015 Brookhaven National Laboratory Elementary School Science Fair on Saturday, May 2, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

Is your dominant hand more sensitive to cold water?

Are footballs easier to throw when they're deflated?

Do video games improve players' spatial reasoning?

Those were among the questions explored by more than 500 elementary school science fair projects Saturday at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Students from 118 Suffolk County schools participated in the annual competition.

Some of the projects were inspired by the news.

In a nod to an NFL flap earlier this year, a number of students tested whether footballs are easier to throw when they're slightly deflated. (They are, they found.)

Third-grader Michael Canudas' experiment was motivated by self-interest.

In an attempt to explain to his mom why playing Minecraft for long stretches can be beneficial, the Coram 9-year-old found that after playing the video game for one hour, the majority of his test subjects improved their scores on a test gauging spatial reasoning.

Other students were more concerned about the future.

Max Wenzel, 10, studied a possible substitute for fossil fuels: bananas.

"In these countries in South America they grow so much bananas and their bioproducts are just left on the side of the road to rot," the Deer Park fifth-grader said. "So if you can turn those into usable energy that would be a huge step forward in human technology."

Wenzel burned banana peel briquettes and measured the heat they produced, then compared it to burning coal. The peels generated enough calories to heat water or cook food, he said, "but not as much as the coal."

One of the youngest competitors, kindergartner Samsritha Vedula of Holbrook, explored how wind can generate power after being fascinated by a field of wind turbines she saw while visiting California.

Her older brother Sriyams won the second-grade science fair at the Brookhaven lab two years ago. Samsritha admitted that while she loves science, she had her eye on the top prize because she wanted to match her brother.

Sixth-grader Luke Altman, 12, of Laurel, tested whether people's dominant or nondominant hand is more sensitive to ice water.

He was surprised to discover that both left- and righthanded people feel the cold more acutely in their dominant hands, which he theorized may have "more nerves."

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