2021 Science Fair

Lindsey Holtom, junior at Hillcrest High School, reacts live to hearing she won the 2021 Eastern Idaho Science and Engineering Fair.

Lindsey Holtom’s winning science fair project made her never want to use cash again.

Holtom, a Hillcrest High School junior, swabbed a range of public places and grew the bacteria she collected to see which surfaces collected the most germs. Her findings led to her winning Best in Fair at the Eastern Idaho Science and Engineering Fair last week.

“It was a great experience for me because I was passionate about the topic and interested in the research, but I never expected that just picking something I wanted to learn about would take me this far,” Holtom said.

Holtom found that all surfaces had some level of natural bacteria growth. The door handle at a COVID-19 testing center was one of the cleanest places she examined. A dollar bill, on the other hand, was coated with bacteria.

The Eastern Idaho Science and Engineering Fair is one of the three regional science fairs held annually by the Idaho STEM Action Center. More than 150 students from across the state competed virtually in the science fairs over the course of March.

Hillcrest High School dominated the eastern Idaho fair because it was the only school that participated. Idaho STEM Action Center executive director Kaitlin Maguire said that drop in participation was likely an “artifact of the time” of the pandemic-affected school year.

“We know educators have a lot on their plate this year, and adding multiple student research projects onto that is a difficult ask,” Maguire said.

Holtom said there wasn’t a competitive feeling between all the Hillcrest students who entered into the science fair and they rooted for each other’s projects. Holtom plans to go into some field of science after graduating from high school.

“I really liked that virtual format better because I use so much technology for my education already, it almost felt better suited than having a physical project board,” Holtom said.

The three student winners of the regional science fairs and three additional at-large prize winners will represent Idaho at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair in May. The fair run by the nonprofit Society of Science also will be held virtually.

Brennen is the main education reporter for the Post Register. Contact him with news tips at 208-542-6711.