About a year and a half ago, Arielle Breuninger read an article about how drought-stricken Los Angeles has been using small black plastic “shade balls” to prevent water evaporation in its reservoirs.
That article has inspired two years’ worth of Arielle’s projects for the North Museum Science & Engineering Fair.
Wednesday night, Arielle, an eighth-grader at Lancaster Country Day School, won Junior Reserve Champion honors at the fair.
For her winning experiment, Arielle put silver ping-pong balls in her grandfather’s food dehydrator to determine the temperatures at which the balls prevent water evaporation.
Because other areas of the country have also been experiencing drought, Arielle said, “I wanted to see how effective shade balls would be in other parts of the country with colder climates.”
Shade balls, she said, cover the water to prevent evaporation.
“I tested them at three different temperature levels, in a food dryer,” Arielle said — at about 50, 85 and 110 degrees.
“I would weigh the balls in a bowl of water and then put it in the food dryer for 24 hours,” Arielle said, “and about five times during the test I would take the bowl out to weigh it and see how much water had evaporated.”
Her conclusion from the experiment, Arielle said, is that “shade balls help reduce water evaporation at all kinds of climates — cold climates and very hot climates.
“However, they are most effective in the very hottest climates,” she added.
After learning Los Angeles was using black shade balls, Arielle said, her project for the 2016 science fair was born.
“Last year I did an experiment about different colors of shade balls to see which color was most effective,” she said. “I found that silver was the most effective (in preventing evaporation).”
She used all silver balls in this year’s project.
Arielle, daughter of John and Valerie Breuninger of Lancaster, said she has always liked science, and may want to pursue it as a career someday.
When she’s not doing science experiments, Arielle participates in gymnastics and plays piano.
When asked what Arielle had to give up in order to have time to get her science fair experiment done, her father said, succinctly, “sleep.”
“She is just a really hard-working student who puts a lot into all her subjects,” her mother said. “She’s an intellectually curious student.”