BILOXI -- About 850 students made their way to the Coast Convention Center on Tuesday for a chance to show off their hard work for a group of judges at the Region VI Science and Engineering Fair.
The projects, created by K-12 students in Harrison, Jackson, Hancock, Stone and George counties, varied from student-made hovercraft to a study of which cleaning products work best.
Grace McLoughlin, a seventh-grader at St. Patrick Catholic School, loves to sing in the mirror while she brushes her hair, so she made sure her project was something she could use.
"I made a microphone hairbrush," she said. "Singing helps me get in a better mood when I'm getting ready; this makes me feel like a performer."
The science fair setups were arranged by category, and Grace said she was enjoying herself Tuesday morning while she was waiting on the judges to look at her project.
"I've made a lot of new friends with the people around me," she said. "It's been fun."
David Sliman, director of the science fair, said the overwhelming feeling he got from the students was excitement.
"They're very nervous, too," he said. "Of course, some aren't, but it helps having someone close to your age in your category sitting near you."
Sliman said the regional science fair got its start in 1975, and the projects are steadily evolving each year.
"You get to where they're using different tactics on a lot of the same projects," he said.
The first-, second- and third-place winners in each of the 10 categories will have the option to advance to state-level competition. One student and his or her project will be chosen to move on to an international competition.
Sliman said everyone working with the science fair volunteered, including the nearly 70 judges responsible for choosing the winners.
There was also a place in the fair for group projects, and friends Ty Tingle and Patrick Lee teamed up on a project examining if men and women see optical illusions differently. They found women took more time to see the whole picture, while men typically glanced at it quickly and answered.
"We spent a lot of time on this," said Ty, who with Patrick is an eighth-grader at Resurrection Catholic School. "It was fun watching the results."
"We didn't want to just do something easy to get it over with," Patrick said. "We wanted to learn something, and this was interesting."
Katherine Descher, a 10-year-old from Ocean Springs Upper Elementary School, is a singer, so she chose to measure vocal ranges in men and women for her project.
"I'm a soloist and wanted to do something with singing because I love, love music," she said. "I've never done a science project, and even if I don't win this, I worked hard and had fun."