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Infinity Scholars display projects

By Staff | Apr 18, 2014

Tyler Halligan of North Platte, Neb. and Sierra Sampson of Vancouver, Wash. studied silica levels at Soper Park on Five Island Lake. Photo by Michael Tidemann

Iowa Lakes Community College Infinity Scholars showed their capstone projects to a full house Wednesday afternoon on the Estherville campus.

According to Dr. Robert Klepper, who secured the four-year grant, $130,000 will be available for scholarships each year for students majoring in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines. Scholarships, which are based on major and financial need, award students up to $4,350 each a year. He said 37 students received awards this year.

“This is why I didn’t take retirement last year,” said Klepper, showing his passion for the program. He said the National Science Foundation grant is separate from the governor’s STEM initiative.

Alyssa Williams and Whitney Kibbie, both from Emmetsburg, did a water analysis at Basswood State Park at the suggestion of Mark Zabawa, associate professor of chemistry and biology at the Iowa Lakes Emmetsburg campus.

Kibbie and Williams started taking water samples last October and continued twice a week until April, except for Dec. 13 and the end of March. They noted dramatic changes in testing after the water froze.

Field runoff after ice melting showed higher rates of ammonia, nitrogen, sulfide and fluoride.

Tyler Halligan of North Platte, Neb. and Sierra Sampson of Vancouver, Wash. studied silica levels at Soper Park on Five Island Lake west of Emmetsburg.

Their findings?

“There really are no silica levels in the lake,” said Sampson.

After testing four times a week from the end of March to April, the results showed that the beach should be safe for swimming.

Alyssa Rihner of Denison, a vet tech major, naturally found interest in studying the prevalence of anthrax. During the course of her research, she found anthrax was historically a bigger problem than it is today.

The Great Plains show the most frequency for anthrax in the US, due to prevalence of cattle and warm, dry weather in the summer. Rihner found that anthrax can spread to humans – usually through the skin by working with infected animals.

Angela Hanneman of Sanborn, Minn. did three diet studies of mice to determine the impact of nutrients.

She used critter mix, dog bones and cereal with Twinkies in her study. The environmental studies major found that while dog treats did the best, the cereal and Twinkies diet proved fatal to one subject with several others showing extreme emaciation.

Joey Boyer of Jackson, Minn. did a study on the Benefits of Biofuels.

The environmental studies major learned that, while biofuels have been around for centuries – such as whale oil for lamps – the advent of fossil fuels decreased the use of biofuels in the 19th century.

The Clean Air Act in the 1970s brought biofuels to the forefront again, and with the Renewable Fuel Standard, helped make biofuels a major industry, adding $44 billion to the Gross Domestic Product in 2013 plus another $8.3 billion in taxes.

Carly Gilliland of Salt Lake City studied the relative sanitation of hand dryers versus paper towels or wiping hands on pants.

As it turned out, paper towels or wiping hands on pants is better than hand dryers.

Gilliland started her study by measuring bacteria on surfaces such as toilet seats. When she tested the wall below a hand dryer she found that the dryers actually put a lot out a lot of bacteria. For example, petri dishes placed below a hand dryer showed 60 bacteria colonies in one dish after just 60 seconds of exposure.

She intends to make her study a two-year project.

In addition to Klepper, Infinity Scholar advisors include Mark Zabawa, Brian Bristow, Kevin Grems, Dr. David Rentschler and Matthew Strom.