News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

July 26, 2013

STEM students show off skills at camp

TERRE HAUTE — The label on a bottle of potassium gluconate tablets says that it promotes heart health. On the back label is a claim that the nutritional supplement also helps with the nervous system.

Those are claims that interested Abi Snyder of Marshall High School when she and a team of students in the Operation Catapult program at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology decided to look at the physiological response of crayfish to a variety of compounds.

Snyder and 160 other incoming high school seniors from 28 states and four countries have spent the past three weeks at the Terre Haute campus exploring projects in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. On Thursday, the students demonstrated some of their projects in events such as walk-on-water races, a trebuchet competition and hovercraft races. The student teams will make formal project presentations today.

Peter Coppinger, professor of aquatic biology and biomedical engineering, said students in his lab came up with some ingenious solutions to problems they were given. And they all did it on a budget of less than $50 while working as a group.

Snyder said she knows people who use dietary supplements regularly, so it seemed reasonable to test supplements that are not approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration — but which are available in the pharmacy area of many grocery stores — to what effect those compounds have on the body, if any.

Using a crayfish — a small aquatic creature commonly found in creeks and ponds — Snyder and her team were able to monitor the biological effects of the potassium gluconate. Because the crayfish has a simple heart and circulatory system, she said, it was easy to hook up the creature to an electrocardiogram.

The team found that the compound slowed the crayfish’s heart rate.

Next, the team tested sodium chloride on the crayfish, but did not get the same result. So they concluded that it was the potassium in the compound that was slowing the creature’s heart rate.

“We couldn’t find any reason that it helps,” Snyder said of the products claim, “but we could see a dramatic slow down in the heart rate.”

 But whether the product is beneficial — as the label claims — depends upon the person ingesting the compound, and the reason for doing so. People often take supplements based on the labels, but there often hasn’t been testing to verify the claims.

“A lot of people don’t want to believe it unless you can show them data,” she said, noting that the crayfish experiment gave some valuable evidence. “A lot of people have no idea what goes on when they’re taking these pills.”

Other teams in the biomedical engineering projects tested the effects of energy drinks and essential oils.

Snyder said she is not sure what educational path she wants to take after graduating from Marshall High School — art or engineering — so she decided to check out Operation Catapult to see where her interests can take her.

Other students from the Wabash Valley participating in this session of the program include Brad Drake of Farmersburg and North Central High School; Megan Foster of Clinton and South Vermillion High School; Brandon Kelts of Paris, Ill., and Paris High School; Talon Lund of Brazil and Northview High School; and Enock Momanyi of Terre Haute and South Vigo High School.

Momanyi said he has been looking forward to participating in Operation Catapult for a long time. His other brother went through the program, and his father is an RHIT professor.

He chose the human-powered refrigerator project, which uses a generator and an alternator to send power to a battery that runs a small refrigerator. Momanyi and his team engineered the project to use bicycles pedaled by team members to produce the energy needed to cool a can of soda pop.

“It looked like the most interesting project to do,” Momanyi said of project selection. “I don’t know anything about refrigeration.”

But he and his team split up the engineering tasks and realized that it takes two bicycles to produce enough energy to power the fridge. And, it also takes a steady flow of energy.

Momanyi said his future plan is to attend RHIT and study computer science or software design.

Patsy Brackin, professor of mechanical engineering and director of Operation Catapult for the past 10 years, said the youths accepted into the summer program are among the brightest students in their home schools, and they have to think creatively to create their projects for less than $50.

Of course, a lot of recycled materials and parts are leftover from previous programs, but the students have to figure out what they need to create things such as hovercraft and trebuchets.

“They use resources on hand, and when they go into the workplace, they will be able to use that skill of taking what’s on hand, and they will be able to save their company money,” Brackin said.

But one of the best stories, she said, was of a home-schooled student who received a lot of direction from the RHIT staff on classes that he needed for college. He later returned as a catapult counselor and then a project mentor.

“We have some students come here with a lot of knowledge but not a lot of confidence,” Brackin said. “Or we have some who need more direction and preparation to go to college.”

Also working with the students for the third year has been a team of Chinese university students who serve as project mentors while taking a high-speed digital design course on campus.

Operation Catapult has been active at RHIT for 47 years, making it one of the oldest STEM programs in the country.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
  • MET 070914 GARDEN 01LARI.jpg Plentiful harvest

    Along the southern bank of Otter Creek near Clinton Street, across the street from North Terre Haute Christian Church, some rocky soil has proven to be fertile ground for new seeds.

    July 12, 2014 4 Photos 1 Story

  • MET 071014 GARDEN 01DIEMER.jpg Meeting need for fresh foods

    There’s something about watching a zucchini go from seedling to soup that is satisfying for Jean Diemer.

    July 12, 2014 3 Photos 1 Story

  • MET 071214 60 YEARS.jpg Celebrating 60 years of pride at Hulman Field

    The buildings may have changed, and the mission has certainly changed, but the pride remains the same when those celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 181st Intelligence Wing of the Indiana Air National Guard came together Saturday at Hulman Field.

    July 12, 2014 5 Photos

  • MET071214 treasure sign.jpg Treasure-hunters forced in doors

    Rain on a Saturday morning can be a big bummer for yard sales.

    July 12, 2014 5 Photos

  • Tank wiring said to be cause of oil-field fire

    An electrical short has been blamed for a Friday night fire at the Pinnacle Exploration oil field on Fruitridge Avenue south of Hulman Street.

    July 12, 2014

  • MET071114  St bens ellis.jpg Annual St. Ben’s community festival kicks off

    The St. Ben's Community Festival kicked off Friday night and continues from 5 p.m. until midnight today.

    July 11, 2014 4 Photos

  • MET 071114 DELISH GREENE.jpg Adding to the mix

    The mix of local food choices will get a fresh stir in the near future, as a café opens a second location, a pizza place moves downtown and a national chain sprouts in two more spots.

    July 11, 2014 4 Photos

  • MET071114 guard bennett.jpg Shift from jets to intelligence

    Loud, impressive fighter jets once zoomed regularly across the sky in Terre Haute, their roars drowning out the sounds of televisions and telephones all around the area.

    July 11, 2014 4 Photos 2 Stories

  • MET 071114 MANN P.C..jpg Candidates’ views clash over more education testing, vouchers

    Indiana needs to change direction to improve education, said Democrat Jim Mann, who will face incumbent Rep. Robert Heaton, R-Terre Haute, in a rematch race for Indiana House District 46.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET071114bad check.jpg Fraudulent checks with an extra ‘t’

    A Terre Haute woman who received a large check in the mail this week wants to warn others that though the check looks legitimate, it is a scam.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Truck, van collide, stopping some U.S. 41 lanes for an hour

    Northbound traffic on U.S. 41 south of Terre Haute was blocked for about one hour Friday because of a two vehicle crash.

    July 11, 2014

  • Indianapolis closing nightlife street on weekends

    Indianapolis officials will close the main street through a nightlife district to motor vehicles on Friday and Saturday nights to reduce violence there.

    July 11, 2014

  • Man revives 3-year-old who was face down in pool

    Authorities in central Indiana say a man revived his 3-year-old son after spotting the boy face down in an apartment complex pool.

    July 11, 2014

  • Vigo County Jail Log: July 11, 2014

    The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.

    July 11, 2014

  • New exhibits set to open at Red Skelton museum

    VINCENNES (AP) — Events are being planned for the opening of new exhibits at the museum celebrating the career of the late comedian Red Skelton in his southwestern Indiana hometown.

    July 11, 2014

  • Solar Roadways_Morg.jpg 10 Things to Know for Friday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • council mtg 013.JPG Mayor: City will not file bankruptcy

    The Terre Haute City Council took well more than  an hour to ask questions and discuss the health of the city’s finances with top city officials in a special meeting Thursday night. A few councilmen expressed grave concern about the financial picture, while Mayor Duke Bennett said things were improving.

    July 10, 2014 2 Photos 1 Story

  • State official threatens prosecution of city leaders who talk about audit

    A state official has threatened to pursue the prosecution of city officials if they violate a confidentiality agreement signed last month.

    July 10, 2014

  • MET 071014 181 02EXPO.jpg ISU, 181st Intelligence Wing show off capabilities at expo

    Communication and getting unmanned eyes in the sky can be vital parts of responding to a natural or man-made disaster.

    July 10, 2014 3 Photos 1 Story

  • Feds relent: Military to restore equipment program for fire departments

    An agreement has been reached to keep surplus military equipment rolling into rural fire department bays in Indiana and 47 other states.

    July 10, 2014

  • united way.jpg UW kicks off pilot campaign

    Dottie King remembers the day she saw a young man leaving St. Ann’s Dental Clinic after having 17 teeth pulled. He had not received sufficient dental care before that day so his need was dramatic. That was unlike King, who had visited the dentist regularly since childhood, but still found getting a tooth filled not on her list of fun things to do. “I thought to myself, ‘I never have thought about the blessing of dental care,’” King recalled, sharing that story on Thursday morning with other volunteers for the United Way of the Wabash Valley.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET 071014 181 HILL.jpg Indiana’s director of homeland security sees unmanned systems’ potential

    Integrating unmanned flight systems into use for domestic surveillance can provide first responders with key information in responding to fires, earthquakes and man-made disasters, said John Hill, director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Stunt performer scheduled to be at Wigwam

    A celebrity stunt man named Jim “Crash” Moreau is scheduled to perform at Terre Haute’s Wigwam Skate and Event Center on Saturday.

    July 10, 2014

  • Rain barrels offered for sale

    The Vigo County Soil and Water Conservation District is taking orders for 55-gallon rain barrels.

    July 10, 2014

  • Ash.jpg Tips lead to meth lab bust

    Two people were arrested after police busted a clandestine methamphetamine lab Thursday in the 2200 block of Fourth Avenue in Terre Haute.

    July 10, 2014 2 Photos

  • 071014 meth lab items.jpg Police bust meth lab in Terre Haute

    Police busted a clandestine methamphetamine lab today in the 2200 block of Fourth Avenue in Terre Haute.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • UPDATE: Ethics panel approves $5K fine against Bennett

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s State Ethics Commission has approved a $5,000 fine against former state schools Superintendent Tony Bennett for using state resources in his 2012 campaign.

    July 10, 2014

  • Vigo County Jail Log: July 10, 2014

    The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Wednesday and Thursday, based on jail records.

    July 10, 2014

  • Group: 5,000 same-sex marriages in Illinois

    A survey indicates thousands of same-sex couples are marrying in Illinois.

    July 10, 2014

  • Study: Hunting restores forests in state parks

    A study by a Purdue University research team has found that regulated deer hunts in Indiana state parks have helped restore forests damaged by too many white-tailed deer.

    July 10, 2014

Latest News Poll
AP Video
Joy Fills Streets of Cleveland As LeBron Returns Raw: Stunning Timelapse of WC Final Host City Texas Shooting Suspect Collapses in Court LeBron: Move Back to Cleveland 'Exciting' World Cup Final Pits Argentina Against Germany Raw: Israel, Gaza Exchange Rocket Fire Israel Widens Attack As Gaza Death Toll Rises Raw: Militants, Israelis Exchange Rocket Fire Raw: Airstrike Creates Chaos on Gaza Streets Netherlands Beats Host Brazil 3-0 to Finish 3rd Robot Writes Jewish Torah Scroll Diaz and Segel Strip Off for 'Sex Tape' WH: LeBron's Move a 'Powerful Statement' Raw: Brazil Fans Cry After World Cup Loss Arizona Mom of Missing Baby Released From Prison Ana Ortiz on 'Devious Maids' Finale Death Toll Tops 100 As Israel Offense Continues Raw: Airstrike Creates Chaos on Gaza Streets Argentina to Face Germany in World Cup Final Proposed Bill to Regulate NY Costumed Characters
NDN Video
Cellphone Video Shows Assault Tracy Morgan released from rehab month after crash LeBron: Move Back to Cleveland 'Exciting' Cleveland welcomes home LeBron Houston Killer Collapses in Court When Read Capital Murder Charges for Allegedly Killing Family of Six Worst Valet Ever Wrecks $500K Lamborghini Glee Star Becca Tobin's Boyfriend Matt Bendik Found Dead in Hotel Aerial fish restocking in Utah ScarJo Channels Marilyn Monroe Obama Responds to Hecklers on Immigration Tiny Hamsters Who Ate Burritos are Back for a Tiny Hedgehog's Party Watch Kelly Ripa Get Soaked! 'Referee' Hands Out Yellow Cards for Social Faux Pas in NYC 2014 Emmy Nominees: 8 Snub Shockers Emma Watson Is Va-Va-Voom in Valentino 7 Infamous Sports Blowouts Argentina tops Holland in World Cup semifinals News flush: Japanese toilet exhibition making a splash Emmy Nominations: What to Watch For 'Game of Thrones' Leads 66th Emmy Awards Nominations

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010