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Youth advances to semifinals

Caryn Haller

Older brothers can be difficult, but for Sam Ballard his was an inspiration.

Sam, 11, was chosen as one of 400 semi finalists nationwide for his science project in the Discovery Young Science Challenge 2001.

Sam placed second in a regional science competition in March and was among 1,751 students to apply for the national fair.

“I think what he’s done is fantastic,”said Anne Lenhares, his fifth-grade teacher at Fritsch Elementary School. “He’s such a brilliant kid. To have it confirmed on a broader scale is a lovely thing.”

Sam’s project is called “Your music is too loud” and is a compilation of his research on what materials work best for soundproofing rooms.

“I have a 16-year-old brother and I wanted to know how can I stop hearing my brother’s music from his room to mine,” Sam said.

The brothers’ rooms share a wall and the older brother has a 450-watt stereo system, said Sam’s mom, Diana.

Sam said he designed a testing box with the same materials that his room has on the walls, floors and ceilings.

He tested 23 materials including fiberglass, egg cartons, one-inch cork and linoleum.

“I thought that egg cartons would be the best at soundproofing the rooms,” Sam said.

Sam put a sound level meter on one side of the box, a radio set at the same sound level as his brother’s music on the other side and the testing material in the middle.

With a lid on the box, Sam then read decibel levels for each material.

Sam said he discovered one-inch cork absorbed sound the best, and egg cartons came in a close second.

“I enjoy experiments and asking questions that no one else has answered,” Sam said. “That’s what motivates me.”

Out of the 400 semifinalists, Diana said only 40 can advance to the finals and receive a trip to Washington, D.C. to compete in an oral presentation of their projects as well as a series of team challenges.

The winner will receive a $15,000 college scholarship.

“I think he’s been doing great, he worked so hard on it,” Diana said.”He’s learned to research something.”

Sam said he’s been thinking about being a paleontologist when he grows up.

“I like dinosaurs and I like digging for stuff and working in the dirt,” he added.

The competition is sponsored by Discovery Communications, Inc. which runs 14 entertainment networks including the Dicovery Channel, and Science Service which is a nonprofit organization promoting science through publications, outreach and science education programs.