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Welby fourth grader won 2023 District Science Fair after plenty of trial and error

Most people know that success doesn’t come without some degree of failure. That’s a sentiment with which Abiel H., a fourth-grade student at Welby Community School of the Arts, would probably agree. He won the 2023 Mapleton District Science Fair last month after reconstructing his project “Molino Hidraulico” three times to get it to work.  

The project was a hydraulic mill that created kinetic and mechanical energy when water passed through its wheel. In the real world, he said a mill like his could be used to take advantage of running water to provide a power source for remote areas without reliable sources of energy.

Science fair winner stands by project

The Fair was one of Abiel’s first experiences in Mapleton, as he had arrived from Colombia a mere month earlier.  

“I thought, ‘Well this is my first opportunity for a science fair. I’ve participated in other types of competitions but never won, let’s give it a shot,” he said through an interpreter.  

He was inspired to make his mill after watching a couple of videos of similar structures, like one of a windmill, on YouTube and got started. He said his parents helped him measure his parts and connect ones that were physically harder to put together, using hot glue. And then, it was time for trial and error for the next week.  

In the first version, the wheel, made from popsicle and kabob sticks, was so low it touched the base of the project, and wouldn’t spin, and the water pressure was too weak to push it anyway. Ultimately, the whole thing fell apart. In his next versions, Abiel learned the water he used was too warm, his wheel was lopsided, and his base was so short that water sprayed out everywhere. He said even his father was ready to give up, but Abiel refused to quit until it worked. He finished with just a few days to spare and said it was worth it when he was announced as the winner. 

“It was very good to hear my name. It’s the first time I’ve won a medal in ten years,” he said proudly. (And, as he is 10 years old, it also happens to be his first medal ever.) “But I was a little sad for some other kids who had good entries but didn’t win.” 

He said he made a friend at the Fair and has some advice for others that want to enter in the coming years. 

“I would tell them to give their best effort but not focus too much on winning. It’s OK if you don’t win,” he said. “What matters is you do your best work and, if you do win, that you motivate other students in the future.” 

Abiel said when it comes to science, he likes a little bit of everything, especially seeing how things work and are created. And his wheels are already turning for what he wants to make for next year’s science fair. It may involve a rocket and baking soda or be something else completely. We’ll have to wait and see.