Have you ever wondered if people can taste the difference between brand name and generic foods? Or have you thought about how texting affects your reaction time while driving? And is it possible to build a jet engine inside a bottle?
These were the questions that eighth graders from around southeast Nebraska set out to answer, and they were in Beatrice on Monday to provide those answers.
The 4-H building at the Gage County Fairgrounds hosted the Nebraska Area Health Education Centers' regional science meet, presented by Public Health Solutions, AHEC, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Coalition for Lifesaving Cures.
Eighth grade students from St. John’s Lutheran School in Seward and Johnson County Central School in Tecumseh made the trek to Beatrice to participate in an effort to make it to the statewide science meet in Omaha in June.
Jill Kuzelka, who works in community education for Public Health Solutions, said that this is the third year PHS has been a part of the regional science meet. Last year, it was held in Crete, but this year, they moved it to Beatrice, which Kuzelka said is working out pretty well. So well, in fact, there will be a second regional science meet in Beatrice on March 13.
It’s an invite-only event, Kuzelka said. They try to get at least one school from every county, but not every school participates in science meets, she said. There are seven meets throughout the state, including the two in Beatrice, and others in Ainsworth, Scottsbluff, Omaha, Kearney and Norfolk.
In between the four rounds of judging, the students get to take part in different hands-on health seminars. One, called “Stop the Bleeding” teaches kids how to treat a bleeding wound. In the back room of the 4-H building, kids lined up in front of CPR dummies, checked for breathing and then tried their best to provide 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute and learn a skill that might save a life one day.
Across the parking lot, the Simulation in Motion trailer provided participants a look at what Kuzelka described as “an ambulance on steroids.” Inside, a computer-packed dummy simulates cardiac arrest. It can breathe, it has a heartbeat and it can even blink. Using a portable defibrillator, students brought the flat-lining dummy back to the world of the living.
During the science meet, dozens of tri-fold poster board displays stood on tables around the room as students explained what they’d been up to.
Grace Roberts, an eighth grader at St. John’s, set out to determine once and for all if pepper actually makes people sneeze. She blindfolded her fellow students and made them see if pepper, salt or cinnamon would get a hearty “achoo” out of them.
“I found that, normally, in junior high students, it didn't make them sneeze when they smelled it,” Roberts said. “But, when they held it close to their nose, it gave them more of a feeling as if they were going to sneeze.”
Meanwhile, Ainsley Hotovy’s experiment was aimed at trying to find out how music affects concentration.
Subjects took five math speed tests in all, using silence for the control during the first test.
“Then I tested them once with these four different types of music,” Hotovy said. “Classical, heavy metal, trending—as in Taylor Swift and stuff like that—and winter holiday music, because I'm not willing to let go of Christmas.”
Classical was easily the best, narrowly beating out silence, she said. Heavy metal, as she expected, was the worst music to listen to while taking a test. She did find out that music of any sort doesn’t help people who aren’t good at multitasking and people who are more introverted.
The panel of judges was made up of people from around the community. Karm Reese, who works for the Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce, said that there was a wide range of people from around Beatrice and Gage County.
Reese said that she’d been impressed by the kids’ clarity and knowledge when discussing their chosen subjects.
“I look for how they present,” she said. “It's public speaking. You think of science fair, you think of nerdy kids, but some of these kids are really amazing. They speak very eloquently and they're really into their project, which is really cool.”
A U.S. Marshal emptied his magazine, reloaded his Glock .45 and kept firing at a Beatrice man — 19 rounds in all — before his gun jammed earlier this year, a Lincoln police detective testified last week.
The man, Thomas Sailors, drove away with shrapnel in his forehead, shot in his left hand and his upper-left leg, the bullet traveling through his right leg and lodging in his buttocks, said the veteran officer, Ken Koziol.
Police had no body-cam footage of what happened in the apartment building parking lot near South 17th and Prospect streets. But a police cruiser's camera captured what unfolded shortly after 8 p.m. on Jan. 5.
Koziol said it showed the stolen 2007 GMC Yukon Denali rock when U.S. Marshal Paul Keyes struck the Yukon's front bumper with the front of his unmarked pickup.
About 7 seconds later, the Yukon backed up, hitting the cruiser. Almost simultaneously, Koziol said, Keyes started firing. He said he couldn't make out words, but officers' voices could be heard yelling out just prior to the shots.
He said Lincoln Officer Max Hubka saw the reverse lights and knew he was in a dire predicament.
Fearing for his life, Koziol said, the officer dove into the driver's door of the cruiser, his feet being dragged on the pavement, leaving him with minor injuries to his legs.
The Yukon then hit a wall of the apartment complex.
More shots came 20 seconds after the collision. Keyes had reloaded, but his gun had a "stove-pipe malfunction," jamming after eight more shots, Koziol said.
When Sailors drove away, Keyes followed. But streets were icy, snow-packed, and a police commander called off the pursuit because of the dangerous conditions, he said.
Keyes, the marshal, died of cancer earlier this month.
Police didn't find a gun on Sailors or in the stolen Yukon when he showed up at the parking lot at Bryan Health soon after.
But several days later, someone found a starter pistol with blood on the slide along Sailors' likely path to the hospital. Police plan to have it tested to see if Sailors' DNA was on it, Koziol said.
The new details came out at a preliminary hearing Thursday in Lancaster County Court, where Sailors' public defender, Shawn Elliott, argued it looked as if Sailors was just trying to get away after the vehicle he was in suddenly was struck by a pickup, then someone started shooting at him.
There was no evidence he even knew a police cruiser had pulled up behind him, pinning him in, his attorney said.
"Wouldn't it be common sense to try to get out of that situation?" Elliott asked.
Koziol said he thinks Sailors had "every opportunity to give himself up, to not strike that vehicle."
He said the Fugitive Task Force had been on the lookout for Sailors to arrest him on a felony drug warrant when Keyes spotted him driving near the Nebraska State Penitentiary, followed and called for backup.
Sailors, 25, now faces charges of third-degree assault on an officer, theft by unlawful taking and operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest.
Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Jim Rocke said there was probable cause to allow all three charges to advance to district court.
"We don't have to show that he intended to hurt the officer, just that he intended the actions that led to the officer's injuries. The flee to avoid (arrest) is pretty obvious. As is the theft charge," he said.
Elliott asked the judge to dismiss the assault and fleeing charges, arguing there was no evidence Sailors' actions were directed toward the police cruiser, which they chose to position immediately behind the Yukon.
"It's also clear that the marshal, for whatever reason, struck the Yukon immediately without any attempt to contact the driver, and it seems a natural response that you might back the vehicle up," he argued.
In the end, Lancaster County Judge Timothy Phillips bound each count over, saying the cruiser had pulled up behind the Yukon with its emergency lights on.
"I don't know how anyone could not know a police officer was behind them," the judge said.
Looking to file for political office in Gage County? You’ve only got a couple of days left to do it.
The last day to file to run for non-incumbents is March 1, so those running for county or local public office have to get their registration forms to the Gage County Courthouse by 5 p.m. on Thursday.
The last day for incumbents to file was Feb. 15, but the non-incumbent date is March 1 to get on the May 15 primary ballot.
All it takes to run for office is just a one-page form with the filer's name, address and the office they’re seeking, said Gage County Deputy Clerk Michelle Bloomquist. Then, they’ll sign it and the county will notarize it.
If the salary for the position is more than $500 annually, there’s a one percent filing fee, Bloomquist said. If the position is paid per diem, or per meeting, there is no fee.
So far, the county has had incumbents file to run again for their offices as the Gage County Board of Supervisors, county treasurer, sheriff, county clerk, register of deeds, district court clerk, county assessor, county attorney and county surveyor.
Signups for local elections are also handled at the Gage County Courthouse, including mayoral and city council offices for Beatrice, Blue Springs and Wymore, as well as the school boards of Beatrice, Freeman, Southern and Diller-Odell school districts and for the Beatrice Airport Authority.
As of Feb. 26, 42 people have filed or refiled to run for office in the county and local primaries so far, and anyone interested has until Thursday to do so. Although Bloomquist said they're unsure how many people in total will be running, she said things are starting to pick up now that the end is in sight.
“You just never know,” she said. “We've had a couple for school board just today.”
Falls City Sacred Heart 49, Sterling 32
Freeman 56, Fillmore Central 17
Johnson-Brock 51, Tri County 39