Two Herrick seventh graders will advance to State Science Expo

Next weekend, more than 1,400 seventh-through-12th grade students from across Illinois will descend upon Northern Illinois University to present meticulously-researched science fair papers and presentations during the prestigious State Science Expo.

Herrick Middle School seventh graders Sydney Fleming and Natalie Mall will be among those students. Both girls excelled at the District 58 and Regional Science Fairs, earning an invitation to the State Science Expo.

sydney fleming
Sydney Fleming

Sydney’s project is called “The Effects of Color Ratio on People’s Ability to Read Text.” Her project examined color contrast to determine which color combination was easiest to read. She hypothesized that high contrast colors, such as black text on a white background, would have the highest readability. Conversely, she predicted that low contrast color combinations, like yellow text on an orange background, would be hardest to read. Her hypothesis proved correct.

“When we do projects in school, some classmates’ presentations can be hard to read, especially if they use low-contrasting colors,” Sydney said. “I wanted to improve my own presentation skills and I became interested in learning which color combinations helped with viewer clarity. This inspired my project.”

Natalie Mall
Natalie Mall

Natalie’s project is called “Which Extraction Component Has the Most Effect on DNA Yield?” Natalie manipulated DNA components to discover how she could yield the greatest amount of DNA from a single strawberry DNA extraction. She completed several trials, and each time she adjusted a variable. Her research determined that an increase in alcohol yielded more DNA.

Natalie said that a similar experiment in school inspired her to complete this project.

“(Science teacher) Mr. Burgess taught us about DNA structure. We were able to extract DNA from a strawberry in school, and I thought that was really fun,” Natalie said. “So, I decided to take it one step further for my project.”

Natalie added that she hopes to pursue a career in a medical field, and she finds the Science Fair to help complement her scientific curiosity. This year marks Natalie’s third time participating in the District Science Fair, as well as Sydney’s fifth consecutive year.

“Over the years, the Science Fair has really helped me improve my speaking and presentation skills. I really enjoy doing it,” Sydney said.

Still, this will be both girls’ first appearance at the State Science Expo, which requires participants to be in at least seventh grade.

“It might a little intimidating to be the youngest students at the Science Fair. I’m excited to meet some of the older students and learn about their research. There should be some really good projects!” said Natalie.

To prepare for the State Science Expo, both girls used constructive criticism from the District and Regional Science Fairs to improve their projects. They’ve added additional variables, added depth to their papers and practiced their verbal presentations. The State Science Expo takes place on Saturday, May 6 at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center.

For media inquiries related to Science Fair, please contact Megan Hewitt, community relations coordinator, at or 630-719-5805.