Sarah Beard, Science Whiz

This Whiz Kid won the Healdsburg Science Fair last year and came back to place third with her project on Equine Gait Kinematics.

loves movement. She is an avid swimmer and regularly rides her horse, Takoda. In her AP physics class this year, Sarah learned how to calculate different aspects of motion, called kinematics, then used this knowledge to create an award-winning science project for the Healdsburg Science Fair.

The junior, who won the science fair last year with a project focusing on motion in running, placed third this year for her project, which measures kinematics in horses. Sarah discovered in last year’s science project, that the human foot experiences less force when jogging in a heel to toe movement than a toe-only movement because of the larger surface area that is used.

This year, Sarah wanted to use her horse, Takoda, to find out which method of movement exerts the least amount of vertical force. Sarah displayed her findings at the Healdsburg Science Fair on March 26-31.

To carry out this experiment, Sarah attached an accelerometer, which measures speed, to Takoda’s saddle and walked him, then sped him up into a canter. Sarah trotted Takoda and took careful readings of each movement. Finally, Sarah compared the results of the walk, canter, and trotting movements.

According to Sarah’s hypothesis, she believed the trot would have the greatest frequency, since it feels the most physically jarring. Although she was right, Sarah was surprised to learn that the canter has the most vertical acceleration, but happens to feel very smooth to a rider since its rhythm and height feels very natural.

“When we ride, we feel that the trot makes us move and bounce the most. A canter feels more like a rocking chair,” says Sarah.

Sarah says that Takoda enjoyed being the subject of her science project, and loved every minute of being ridden at different speeds. Sarah has been around animals her whole life and regularly shows her horses, a goat, and a pig.

She is in the local 4-H Club and expands her love of nature as she leads a pruning group for local vineyards. When she’s not herding animals or taking care of plants, Sarah swims on the high school’s varsity swim team and plays varsity volleyball.

Although Sarah’s younger brother, Michael, came in first for this year’s science fair, Sarah doesn’t hold it against him. His project measured force using air soft guns and bb’s of different sizes and weights. Sarah encourages Michael, a high school freshman, to keep experimenting and asking questions.

Sarah was surprised and excited to find that she and a few of her friends also placed third in the technology portion of the science fair, called the Rube Goldburg Machine Contest. The challenge for this year was to create a plant watering process in 20 steps or more.


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