Alisa Zornig Gura,Northern Indiana Regional Science and Engineering Fair,Executive Director
One of the most valuable aspects for students participating in science fair is the opportunity to explain their research methodology to others. Professional scientists and engineers are often called upon to explain their research not only to colleagues within their fields, but to policy makers, business investors, educators, and the general public. Science fairs provide students opportunities to practice and communicate the importance of their research across audiences; a skill that transfers well to college applications and career development.
Seniors are always a great help
I believe it is important for students to select a topic of interest that challenges them to think in a new way. Much learning happens by attempting experiments that do not work out as originally anticipated. Students can look for mentors by reaching out to local industry partners, colleges, and universities. Many science and engineering professionals and students of higher education are eager to offer support to students participating in science fairs. Students should be prepared for judges to ask questions that show they truly understand the meaning of their data and why it is important.
Support from parents and teachers
Parents may support their child in science fair even if they are not familiar with their child’s topic. For instance, they may help their child practice their presentation and ask basic questions to help them think through how best to describe their research. I also recommend students to seek inputs from their teachers and regional science fair judge chairs to know if an idea is sophisticated enough for the Google Science Fair or the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
A platform for exposure
In addition to developing and refining their critical-thinking, research, and communication skills, science fairs afford students opportunities to engage with the scientific community. Science fairs are an excellent way for students to become exposed to a variety of fields and disciplines through interaction with judges and fellow competitors. Students may also have their biases of ‘what scientists and engineers look like’ challenged as a result of exposure to the diversity within the scientific community. Science fairs also provide an encouraging and supportive environment for the pursuit of academic interests.
Alisa Zornig Gura is the Science and Engineering Academic Community Engagement Program Manager in collaboration with the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame. She is responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with community partners, exploring the needs of those partners, and connecting them with faculty and students interested in academic community engagement. Alisa is the Executive Director of the Northern Indiana Regional Science and Engineering Fair and is on the Board of Directors of the Science Education Foundation of Indiana. She received her Master of Public Affairs with a Non-Profit Administration and Policy concentration and her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Indiana University in South Bend, Indiana. She currently serves on the Ten Thousand Villages Mishawaka Board of Directors and mentors with the Reading for Life, Inc. juvenile diversion program.
Marion Zeiner,Director of Scientific Research,Episcopal School of Jacksonville
Jennifer Hellier,Associate Director of Programs,University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus