SCHWEINFURT, Germany -- Our futures are in good shape. That's if our kids have anything to do with it.

Nearly 260 students from kindergarten and grades one through eight participated in the STEM Fair Exposition at Schweinfurt Elementary/Middle School, which culminated in a public viewing April 25 in the school's gym.

"The overall goal was to inspire students to think. If they can think on their own, they'll be able to create for the future," said fifth-grade science teacher and event organizer, Jean Kenny.

Judging from the aspiring minds at this year's annual science fair, students have the drive, curiosity and technical know-how to fix some of our times' most pressing issues.

Take Landyn Reed for example. The fourth-grade student tested whether increased muscle tension could help identify liars. Appropriately titled, "Pinocchio's Arm," Landyn asked subjects to raise an arm perpendicular in front of themselves and repeat a series of truths and lies. By applying slight pressure to the arm to sense resistance, according to her hypothesis, she could discern liar from truth-teller. While her results were inconclusive, her scientific mind prevailed.

In another experiment bold in its attempt at distinguishing fact from fiction, third-grader Audrey Lazzara asked: "Can our eyes fool our taste buds?" Her research may surprise you. Audrey distributed various drinks to test subjects. What she didn't tell them, however, was that the beverages were all the same, though dyed different colors. Shockingly, 80 percent of respondents said they tasted different drinks.

More practical experiments revealed telling information useful to adults. Seventh-grader Andre Scott, for example, set out to determine the dirtiest location in his house using bread as a Petri dish to collect mold. Pitting science against scientist, science in this case may have been befuddled by adult supervision, given that Andre's very own bedroom was noticeably absent from his experiment.

And in another instance of practicality, Kyle Pingco's statistical research brought clarity to adults looking to understand teenagers. Adults tend to distance themselves from teenagers as a rare species subject to analysis and science journals -- the work of zoologists. The inner workings of the teenager are beyond the scope of more balanced adults, or so we believe. So Kyle simply posed the question: "What do teenagers fear?" Based on the eighth-grader's survey, teens fear most failure, followed by low grades, rejection, heights and even clowns. Teens aren't so different than the rest of us (not his conclusion).

This year's science fair -- which included a section of robots -- was aligned with the Department of Defense Education Activity's overarching initiative aimed at providing students with opportunities to be successful in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, more commonly referred to as STEM, Ms. Kenny said.

Judging was based on presentation, organization, visuals, student research, comprehension and preparation. Judges included Soldiers from Schweinfurt's 12th Chemical Company, the dental clinic as well as faculty with the Schweinfurt High School and Elementary/Middle School.

For now, thanks in part to our youth, there is hope for the future. If we could only get our kids to fix spending and automatic budget cuts.

Grades K-2
1st--Richard Kadenski (K)--Do Cheek Cells and Strawberry Cells Both Have DNA?
2nd--Mikayla Nesmith (1)--Plants and Growth
3rd--Noah Baynes (2)--Which kind of Paper Plane Flies Farthest?
Honorable Mention--Electra White (1)--Touch This
Honorable Mention--Logan Morlan (K)--Hovercraft
Honorable Mention--Hailey Bingham (2)--Clockwork

Grades 3-5
1st--Sage Boothe (4)--Drag Racing in the Water
2nd--Audrey Lazzara (3)--Can our Eyes Feel Our Taste Buds?
3rd--Mackenzie Deekens (4)--Growing Rock Candy
Honorable Mention--Samantha Ringlbauer--Homemade Battery
Honorable Mention--Jonathan Rowan (4)--The Paper Airplane Project

Grades 6-8
1st--Jesse Juan (7)--Cymatics
2nd--Richard Hoffman (7)--Removing Disc Scratches
3rd--Kayla Dozier (8)--Full of Hot Air
Honorable Mention--Alexa Fuentecilla, Briana Jackson, Alejandro Rentas (6)--Motor Oil Shrimp
Honorable Mention--Peter Mangelsdorf (8)--Electrolytic Elements
Honorable Mention--Carson Kreager (8)--Liquid Magnets

Robotics Awards
1st--Deanna Zavala--Articulated Hand
Honorable Mention--Camron Sias (5)--The Bot Massage
Honorable Mention--Meki Dawson (5)--Ninja Robot