Science fair contestants win on a wing and a woof

From left: Elementary school scientists Julianne Gordillo, Isabella Munoz and Denny Riiff.

Central Elementary School fifth-grader Denny Riiff strived to discover what type of folds would propel a paper airplane to fly farther: one with a longer wingspan, or a wider one?

Classmates Julianne Gordillo and Isabella Munoz at the Banning elementary school wanted to know if a dog’s bark was higher depending on the size of its body.

Denny took first place at Banning Unified School District’s districtwide science fair earlier this spring in the individual category, and Julianne and Isabella placed first in the group category.

Others who placed in the elementary division were (Individual) second place winner Janelle Ibarra, Hemmerling School, “The Effects of Food Coloring on Flowers”; and third place, Vaughn Burkhart, Hoffer School, “Microwave Speed of Light; (Group): Cabazon School students Sebastian Osornio and James Villasenor took second place for “Which milk spoils first?”; and third place went to Xenasia Turner and Raegen Wyler of Cabazon School for “Apple Science.”

Figuring out the best flight pattern

On a weekend as his day wound down, Denny conducted test flights of what he admits were hastily made paper airplanes made from unreliable flimsy notebook paper — on a late afternoon where a noticeable breeze blew through.

He tried a dozen planes folded into varying shapes for his project, “Paper Planes In Flight?”

One of his early experiments had its flight interrupted when his dog came out of nowhere and jumped up and caught it.

Despite the odds, Denny accurately predicted that a paper airplane (with the paper he used) that had the longest wingspan would fly the least distance.

What he suggested may have been a fluke, was the one that flew the furthest: one caught a breeze and rose higher, gliding slowly over 456 inches from its launching point.

The average flight from his first three planes flew about 187 inches (each were given three flights a piece).

“If I were to try this again, I’d probably do it inside where there isn’t a breeze, and I would probably use stronger paper” other than notebook paper with pre-punched holes lining it says Denny, who imagines himself as being a mechanical engineer someday.

Finding the perfect pitch

When it comes to determining the pitch of a dog’s bark, apparently size matters.

For their research, Julianne Gordillo and Isabella Munoz downloaded a decibel meter application to a phone, and tried to measure their dogs’ barking for their project, “Pitch Perfect.”

Julianne has a growing 2-year-old golden retriever, and Isabelle has a little bichon frise lap dog.

For their project, they were hoping to learn whether the size of a dog would determine the pitch of its bark — specifically whether a small dog would have a high-pitched bark, and a big dog have a lower-pitched bark.

“Dogs bark for communication, and territorial conveyance,” Julie explains.

For their dogs to participate, she says, they had to be at least 2 years-old (the age, they claim, that dogs’ voices have matured in dog years).

Julie’s golden retriever generally has a low-pitch bark, “but can have a high-pitch bark when she wants our attention, and she’ll use her higher puppy barks.”

Isabella’s bichon frise does not bark much, unless her owners get her to “speak” in order to earn a treat.

For Julie’s golden retriever, they had to tease her with a treat just out of reach to get her to bark.

Their barks were recorded, then tested in their decibel meter-reading application.

Their hypothesis that bigger dogs had lower pitches than their smaller counterparts turned out to be true.

If they were to do their experiment differently, Julianne, who hopes to one day become a veterinarian, says she would prefer to try to get the dogs to bark into the application “in person” for better authenticity; while Isabella, who aspires to be an architectural engineer, would like to see a broader variety of dogs of differing ages be included in a wider study.

The first place winners from the district science fair were scheduled to be awarded $100 Bank of Hemet accounts by the San Gorgonio Education Foundation at Thursday’s school board meeting.

Staff Writer David James Heiss is president of the San Gorgonio Education Foundation. He may be reached at

Staff Writer David Heiss may be reached at


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