Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Spring Into Science Fair

Just a short little note about something dear to my heart - Science Fair. Over the past two days, I've been honored to judge projects from the "Physical Sciences" category. My charges ranged from 10-year-olds studying conductivity to high schoolers interested in artificial tissues.

Some observations:
Source: Philip Martin Clip Art

- What's Old is New Again, Right? The classics all made appearances. Fruit batteries, and kitchen sponges teeming with bacteria. "Green" cleaners, iron in breakfast cereal, and tooth-dissolving cola. And, of course, what would a Science Fair be without a baking soda volcano?
[Sadly, a fellow judge clued me in to a site that helps students, even those who start the night before, to quickly assemble a project, 'data' and 'writeup' included. Sigh.]

- TV Infiltration: Scientific 'reality shows' and crime scenes both figured prominently. Future forensic teams examined simulated blood spills with luminol, tested decomposition rates of flesh in various soils, and dusted for fingerprints. The Mythbusters might have enjoyed this fair; urban legends on display included fruit spoilage, fridge doors, car engines, memory tricks, and clothing stains.

- Back When I Was Your Age...Amazing to see how "high-tech" projects have trickled down into lower age groups. I watched third-graders isolating DNA, middle schoolers playing with Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), and young adults - who couldn't yet drive cars - genetically engineering algae!

- Funny Titles: Double entendres and in-jokes won the day. On notice: a windmill project ("Who Broke Wind?"), a microbe digester ("Poop Power"), and a chromatography project ("Solvent Battles!").

All in all, it was a great experience, and I recommend all readers volunteer when the opportunity arises!

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