Spotlight: Braden Campbell has science on the mind

Braden Campbell presents his science project at the state science fair.
Braden Campbell presents his science project at the state science fair. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Braden Campbell’s science experiment was scaled-down models of some of the biggest jet-powered mechanics in the world – a wind tunnel and top military aircraft.

Eleven-year-old Campbell’s version was created from poster board, duct tape, a small fan and some model airplanes.

The Birchwood Elementary School fifth-grader’s experiment placed first in the fifth-grade mechanics and engineering division at the statewide Washington State Science and Engineering Fair. He also won a merit award from the Pacific Science Center.

The science fair, which had 675 entries this year, is open to students across the state.

Campbell used a scale to determine which of the airplane models lost the most weight — determining the “lift” provided by the wings — while in the wind tunnel.

The results determined the best-designed wings of the four he tested.

His initial predictions were based on the weight of the model airplanes before entering the wind tunnel.

The results were the complete opposite. The heaviest aircraft, the F-14 Tomcat had the best “lift” based on its wing design. And the lightest plane, the F/A-18 Hornet, performed the poorest.

Campbell says he was nervous presenting in front of top engineers from companies around the state, including Boeing.

When he was called up for his award he “couldn’t stop smiling,” Campbell says.

This was the third time Campbell had entered the competition and his first time walking away with an award.

This year’s experience has already inspired him to think ahead to 2016.

Campbell says next year he hopes to continue exploring engineering experiments but also learn more about botany, which also interests him.

“I love science,” Campbell says. “Astronomy, bioengineering, evolution — that blew my mind when I first learned about that. I think science will play a large factor in my career.”


Spotlight shines on children 12 or younger who excel in arts or education and shares how their parents helped them achieve success.

To suggest a child to profile, send their name and a brief description of their accomplishments, along with a parent’s name and contact information, to newsroom@bellinghamherald.com.