Addison Benler lifted her right arm, first parallel to the ground, then above her head, rotating her entire arm from her shoulder socket. The first-grader was demonstrating how tornadoes are formed from a mixture of cold and warm air.

Addison displayed her project, “Terrific Twisters,” on Tuesday night at the Middletown Primary School and Middletown Elementary School Science and Social Studies Fair. More than 20 projects were on display in the elementary school library.

Many tornadoes start as thunderstorms, Addison told those gathered around her booth. If the tornado does not touch the ground, it is called a funnel cloud, she said.

Students in the science and social studies fair could present research or experiments they had done. Those who had completed experiments detailed their initial question, hypothesis, tests and conclusions on their poster displays.

Every student chose their own topic, said kindergarten teacher Sara Caldwell. Some students began working on their projects months ago. All the work is done at home, Caldwell said.

“It’s a tradition,” she said. “It’s just a good learning experience and it’s good for them to learn how to present.”

Some projects asked visitors to mix chemicals together. Another included homemade slime.

Chloe Garcia, a fourth-grader, built a hydraulic arm. Individual levers moved different parts of the arm, which was about a foot in length. Chloe built the project from a kit, she said.

“I’ve always been interested in robots and stuff,” Chloe said.

The arm used water as the hydraulic fluid. Pumping out the air to create the hydraulic vacuum was the most challenging part of the project, but also the most fun, Chloe said.

At another table, Devika Bandekar told visitors about the wonders of space travel. She wore an orange astronaut suit.

Devika’s display board included a drawing of the parts of a rocket ship and pictures of notable astronauts, including the first American woman in space, Sally Ride, the first African-American woman in space, Mae Jemison, and the first Indian-American woman in space, Kalpana Chawla.

“I like [space] because I like to explore and I like rockets,” Devika said.

Later in the evening, representatives from Thermo Fisher Scientific led the participants in the fair through a project to extract and examine DNA from a strawberry.

Seven of the projects at the fair Tuesday night are entered in the Frederick County Public Schools Science and Social Studies Fair on March 30.

Follow Wyatt Massey on Twitter: @News4Mass.

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