Centennial High School sophomore Rushil Desai had a hunch that all the time he spent attached to his cell phone might not be the best for his health.

His father sent him an Indian media report showing that teenagers are spending an inordinate amount of time on their phones, often falling asleep with the devices bedside or under the pillow. The result? Less focus in school, Desai said the report stated.

So it got Desai thinking — just how much radiation is emitted from various technological devices?

He rented an RF meter online and set them up next to his iPhone, iPad and Macbook. His results? Everything emits radiation, some at dangerous levels, including his iPhone, which emits the most radiation when being used on speakerphone.

That’s got Desai re-thinking how much time he spends with his phone.

“I no longer sleep with my phone — I leave that downstairs,” a proud Desai said. “And when I’m at school, it’s in my backpack. ”

Desai’s project, which he titled “The Sinister Side to Usage of Technology,” was just one of hundreds on display Tuesday at Rabobank Arena, which hosted the 30th Annual Kern County Science Fair. It’s the culmination of months of hard work for students grades four through 12 who have risen through their school and district ranks for the opportunity to present their scientific findings at the county level.

Hypotheses included topics that were strictly scientific — like Desai’s radiation emissions project — and others, that were more sociological, like brother and sister duo Marcella and Hayden Werre, who surveyed how children ages four to 15 viewed cartoon characters of different ethnicities.

The teenagers from Desert Junior-Senior High School at Edwards Air Force Base headed to the Antelope Valley Mall, presenting kids with six different cartoon portrayals of princes and princesses. One had caucasian features, another Asian, one African American, one Native American, one Latino and one Middle Eastern.

The data showed that kids tended to prefer cartoon characters who they resembled. Caucasian kids, for example, preferred caucasian cartoon characters.

“For children … these characters aren’t just animated characters. For some of them, they can be role models. Little girls dress up as princesses and boys dress up as superheroes,” Marcella said, adding that it wasn’t until recently that various companies began adding more diversity to their line-ups of cartoons, movies and video games.

Across the convention center, some of the Werre’s classmates, sophomores Julia Smith and Ginger Baird, were showing their project, which involved testing the strength of spider webs when exposed to essential oils.

They hypothesized that — because essential oils have so many benefits for humans — they might also assist insects. Their theory didn’t quite hold up.

Most of the spiders used in the study, which Baird and Smith ordered online, died faster when exposed to essential oils, and their webs were no stronger.

There was, however, one spider (the girls named it Hambone) that when exposed to black pepper essential oils was able to spin a stronger web.

So why is it that when all other spiders succumbed, Hambone somehow prospered?

The two budding scientists aren’t quite sure. That will have to be a project for next year’s science fair.

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

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Winners . . .? Which were the best of the best . . .and going to State . . .?

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