The Gaucho Experiment Promotes Middle Schoolers’ Scientific Curiosity

Photo by Kevin Zeng | The Bottom Line

Noe Padilla
Staff Writer

On April 17, UCSB hosted a science fair in the Corwin Pavilion for the students of La Cumbre Junior High to inspire young students with the opportunity to explore their scientific curiosity.

The program, funded by parent charity The Xperiment, paired middle school students with UCSB undergraduate mentors. Mentors and mentees met on a weekly basis to prepare presentations and complete workshops. At the end of the program, UCSB hosted a science fair to showcase the projects of each student involved with the program.

The science fair started at 11 a.m. and it was full of energetic middle schoolers sharing the results of their experiments to their fellow students. Although many students became nervous when the judges visited their tables, the students’ enthusiasm and preparation shone through. The judges left the tables with smiles on their faces and compliments for students on their projects, which in turn left a smile on the students’ faces.

A few of the UCSB student mentors were at the event guiding visitors to their student’s table. One of those mentors was Mira Konkoly, a first year global studies major. She originally entered UCSB as a computer science major, but realized the major wasn’t for her. She preferred teaching, which is what led her to joining the Gaucho Experiment.

“The kids at La Cumbre are so awesome. They’re super sweet, totally into learning, and love having college kids come in,” said Konkoly. “I think it was such a fun experience to have.”

Konkoly was the mentor to four students, one of whom was an eighth grader named Rebeca. This was Rebeca’s second year being in the program.

At this year’s science fair, Rebeca wanted to showcase the longevity of different colored hair dyes. She specifically wanted to determine if red hair dye would fade faster than purple hair dye. In both tests, the hair was being washed on a daily basis, and after 10 days she got her results.

Her experiment showed that the purple hair dye actually faded faster compared to the red hair dye over the span of 10 days. When questioned further on why the purple hair dye may have faded faster, she shrugged and determined that “it may have been because we bought two different brands of hair dye.”

“I’ve had a great time in the program,” said Rebeca. “I’ve learned a lot and had fun.”

The Gaucho Experiment currently has 80 mentors and teaches about 100 kids. The program has two sister programs at UCLA and UCI and will have recruitment for the program at the beginning of fall quarter.