By Matt de Simone
Contributing writer

The Botetourt County School Board recognized students from James River High School for their recent achievements during its May meeting last Thursday night. James River produced wins at the 2019 Jackson River Governor’s School Annual Science Fair and the 2018 FFA Soils Competition. James River principal Jamie Talbott was on hand to personally recognize his students for their exemplary accomplishments.

The Jackson River Governor’s School Science Fair features student projects from Allegany, Bath, and Botetourt Counties as well as the cities of Buena Vista and Covington. Out of the fair’s six winners, three of the students— Tessa Jones, Thomas Laughridge, and Daniel Holter— are seniors at James River High School.

Jones chose her project because she wants to study physical therapy with a focus in neuroscience after high school. Her science fair project centered around the theory that losing one sense enhances other senses. Her hypothesis: “If a person loses their ability to see, would that increase their hearing sensitivity?”

She wanted to test the neuroplasticity of the human brain. Her trials proved that, in most cases, losing the ability to see enhances the ability to hear. Jones stated, “I only had my trials blindfolded for 15 minutes. I expected minimal change and there definitely was change.” Jones is officially locked in to spend this fall at Roanoke College, continuing her focus on physical therapy.

Thomas Laughridge’s project focused on daily exercise and its effects on a person’s heart rate. His trials consisted of at least 20 people who wrote down their weekly exercise intake and also had each person do jumping jacks to test their initial heart rate. Then, minutes later, Laughridge ran an additional test to see how much his subjects’ heart rate decreased, which proved that, yes, daily exercise does effect a person’s heart rate for the better.

Daniel Holter’s project focused on the effect of slope percent on aboveground biomass. “My hypothesis was that the less of a slope, the greater the biomass,” Holter explained, “Unfortunately, my tests actually disproved that completely. It helped me learn a lot about the field and it also gave me an idea on how to move forward with that sort of thing.”

Holter will attend Appalachian State University this fall, focusing on environmental studies.

Impressively enough, this year’s science fair was the first which Holter, Jones, and Laughridge entered.

Next up were the winners of the FFA Soils Competition. Sophomore Ellie Holter (Daniel’s sister) was the individual State Champion. She, along with juniors Andrew Newcomb and Jacob Fowler competed in the national competition in Oklahoma City where James River finished 27th out of the 102 teams that entered.

Botetourt County School Board chairman and FFA alumnus, Michael Beahm, presented all the James River students with certificates of recognition.