Middle schoolers show their stuff at annual science and invention fair.

JAY – When life gives you lemons, do what Jay Middle School seventh-grader Megan Cox did. Make electricity.

On Thursday afternoon, Cox presented her experiment at the school’s annual science and invention fair.

The eager young Marie Curie explained how to illuminate a lightbulb by connecting it with wires to two coins stuck in a lemon, or a potato. The experiment works, she said, and her research showed that the light would remain bright for up to 10 minutes.

“I didn’t actually know if it would work and then I went home and I tried it and then it did work,” Cox said. “I was like – Oh, my gosh! It works! Wow!”

Cox, who dubbed her project “A Shocking Experiment,” said it’s a simple but smart way to create electricity. “It won’t pollute,” she said, “it won’t waste any money and the lemon juice cleans the coins and you can always make lemonade with the leftovers.”

For Cox and the 150 other presenters, the science fair is a way to stretch their inner-Einsteins and get their hands dirty. “It took forever,” she said of the project, “but it was way fun. I didn’t just get to study about this experiment in the classroom, I got to actually try it. It’s hands-on learning and it’s major fun.”

Enthusiasm is why the fair works, said Jay seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher Jim Harris. Besides touching on more than a dozen of the Maine Learning Results criteria in subjects like mathematics, language arts, science and technology, what’s most important is that the kids have fun and don’t even seem to notice they are leaning.

In addition to their presentations at Thursday’s fair, students turned in written reports, designed a display booth, came up with slogans for their projects, did market research and gave a pitch to their classmates about their projects.

While seventh-graders did experimental projects, eighth-graders walked in the footsteps of Thomas Edison and Ben Franklin, creating their own inventions. The top five winners in each grade will advance to the Sandy-Andy Science Fair, held at the University of Maine at Farmington on May 1.

“We really want them to pick something they are interested in,” Harris said, as giggly middle school students in tiny factions dashed around, checking out their friends’ setups. “It always amazes me. Every year, you think you’ve seen it all, but they always come up with something new and unusual.”

Unusual may in fact be the best word to describe the array of creative contraptions.

Jamison Turner made a remote control footstool. Vincent Duguay designed “The Cheek Heater” heated toilet seat and named his company Potty Pad Inc., and Zane Armandi created a nighttime snowboard, which has flashlights attached to the front and rear for illuminating the trail.

For eighth-grader Brandon Berry, coming up with “The Glove Light” only made sense. In the wintertime, he wanted to use a flashlight without having to hold it in his thick-gloved hands. So, he rigged up two Christmas lights on the fingertips of the glove and a nine-volt battery to create his invention.

“Don’t be in the dark without one,” was the catchy slogan Berry came up with. “It was fun because it was a hands-on,” he said, his glowing gloved hand resembling the one made famous by ET. “I like working with electricity and I am proud of my invention because it works. I actually think I may use it.”

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