Monday, April 5, 2010

AZ Science Fair - 2010

2 weeks ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer as a judge at the Arizona State Science & Engineering Fair. This was my 3rd year in a row, and I was enthusiastic and looking forward to hopefully moving up from judging some of the Jr High School level projects to the more detailed & refined Sr High School level projects. Dr Desert Flower had volunteered last year when she worked at the non-profit downtown, but this year, there was no time at her new company to send executives for a full day to go judge a Fair [I woke up at 4am, put in 1/2 a day with East Coast & Indian conf calls, drove into Downtown to judge, and then returned in the afternoon to finish up my day].

When I got there, I found I was assigned to an elementary school judging group for physics projects. Oh well. When the call went out for judging groups with only 1 or 2 judges to enlist the help of other well staffed groups, I jumped ship from my team of 4 and helped out another individual who was a team of 1 with 3 no shows. He and I judged Jr. High School Behavior science projects. Most of the students knew their projects very well, and expressed great enthusiasm about science. We judged our 6 projects (5 of the list of 11 were no-shows) and wrapped up our judging by 1pm.

From 1pm to 2pm, I walked around the exhibit hall in my light blue AZ Science Fair judge's shirt, browsing Sr High School projects on:
  • humming bird food preferences (color and sugar concentration)
  • ampicillin resistant bacteria in the PHX waste water plant
  • trébuchet design lever arm optimization
  • gold nano tube manufacturing techniques for prostate cancer applications
  • Copepods in the sea of Cortez digesting micro plastics and accumulating them in the food chain
  • biomarkers for various genetic diseases
...and many others.

And each of the students were so very eager to talk to an adult about their project, to tell about their research, to ask for tips for improvements (when they found out I was not their assigned judge), to tell about where they had been accepted to college and where they wanted to take their research in the future. These students had some formidable work in their projects. They had so much enthusiasm, energy, hunger to learn more, engage, and explore science & engineering. It truly refreshed my faith in future generations that they are all not just PSP addicts, who tweet in their sedentary lives as spectators.

I heard afterwords that there were some difficulties with some judges who did not show, and who were unprofessional. 400 judges, 1400 students, stuff happens. I contacted the Fair's coordinator, and volunteered to organize the Engineering Judging efforts for the Sr High School projects next year. The Fair's organizer not only took me up on my offer for 2011, but asked that I be part of the grand Award Judging team next year as well. I am looking forward to it.

If you are interested in being a volunteer judge next year as well, please do not hesitate to contact me here, of via email. I can use all the help I can get! =)

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