West County: Chesapeake Science siblings take science fair top prize

Caroline Berg (left) and Matthew Berg with their hydroponics project at the Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School Science Fair in Hanover.
Caroline Berg (left) and Matthew Berg with their hydroponics project at the Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School Science Fair in Hanover. (Courtesy photo/HANDOUT)

Deep Water Culture or Replacement Soil? That is the question asked by two siblings from Chesapeake Science Point Charter School in Hanover.

And for Matthew Berg (senior) and his sister, Caroline Berg (freshman), the more important question became, “Why?”


The siblings worked together on a hydroponics experiment called, “Blue, the new green. Which system is better: Deep Water Culture vs Replacement Soil.” The hydroponics project was their winning entry in the annual Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School Science Fair recently.

A straight “A” student, Matthew Berg has set his sights for a career in chemical engineering and is interested in anything that is STEM related. Caroline Berg, also boasting straight A’s, is engrossed in a new pilot program for school leadership and is a participant in a certificate program that will earn her college credits.


Caroline credits the siblings’ mother for sparking the hydroponics idea.

“My mom got a list off the Internet of high school projects and we went through them one at a time,” Caroline said. “Matthew nixed most as boring and no good, and then we came to hydroponics. He really liked that idea as he wanted to grow something. We discussed growing something in dirt and something in water and compare them.

“It turned out that we also got something that tasted really good.”

Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in sand, gravel or liquid with nutrients added but no soil. According to the Bergs there are six types of hydroponics systems, all delivering water and nutrients to plants using different means. They selected two hydroponics systems for home growers to test for their science fair project.


“One system provided the needed water and nutrients through a drip ring that brought it through the system continuously,” Matthew Berg said. “This [deep water culture] system uses clay pellets that support the plant but doesn’t crush the roots. The other system [replacement soil] involved using a replacement soil made from renewable materials.

“This was a non-circulating system in which the replacement dirt absorbed the water and nutrients when it was watered and held onto them and gave it up as the roots needed it.”

For assistance with their project, the Bergs reached out to Hydroworks in Millersville. The company was instrumental in providing advice in addition to supplies.

Tracy Berg is Matthew and Caroline’s mother. She played an instrumental part in the project - clearing the space to do it.

“The kids grew bibb lettuce in two different hydroponic systems over a three-week period to see which one was better,” Tracy Berg said. “They actually had the systems sitting in my master bath as it got the best sunlight throughout the day.”

Matthew and Caroline Berg won their category and the overall category. The Chesapeake Science Point Science Fair was sponsored by Lockheed Martin. The brother and sister team were awarded a Chrome book, a trophy, a microdrone and a microscope kit. There were roughly 60 students who participated in seven categories in the science fair.

The Berg siblings each utilized their own strengths. This was not only their first time working together, it was also Caroline’s first high school science fair.

“Matthew has won his science fair category for the last five years,” Caroline said. “I knew that I worked really hard but I have trouble talking to the judges. I knew that as a senior, Matthew wasn’t really interested in the work but is great with the judges so I thought we could combine our strengths.

“My mom says that ‘Matthew could talk his way out of a closet,’ he is a really good talker.”

What was the conclusion of the hydroponics project? Matthew and Caroline agreed the Deep Water Culture system grew bigger leaves – almost three times the size of the leaves grown in the Replacement Soil system.

Herberts Helpers Quarter Auction

Herberts Helpers will be holding a quarter auction Jan. 27 at Jessup Community Hall, 2920 Jessup Road. Doors open at 6 p.m. The auction starts at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are $5 for 2 paddles; $10 at the door.

Additional paddles: $2 or 3 for $5. Items for bidding include gift cards, Kate Spade, Vera Bradley, Coach, Michael Kors, Dooney & Bourke and Fingerlings. Proceeds will fund the Science Explorer Club of Jessup Elementary School.

To reserve tickets contact Dana Herbert at 410-796-7999 or ddherbert@maxinter.net.

Glen Burnie Elks upcoming events

Glen Burnie Elks Lodge 2266, 878 Stevenson Road in Severn, has several events planned for the end of January.

  • · Jan. 20 – District Hoop Shoot at 11 a.m.in the gym at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn. Pizza Party to follow at the Elks Lodge.
  • · Jan. 21 – All You Can Eat Breakfast Buffet, 9–11 a.m.. Cost is $8.50 per person.
  • · Jan. 21 – Elvis Show with Joe Forrester, 1–4 pm. Tickets are $20.
  • · Jan. 26 – Dinner and karaoke, 6–10:30 p.m. Menu and cost TBA.
  • · Jan. 27 – Junior Elk Program, 1 p.m. An introduction to the Junior Elks Program for ages 12 and up. Candidates need not be a member of the Lodge.

For details regarding the above events, call 410-969-2266.

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