Bevin Daglen,Fair Director,Aardvark Science Exposition
Inducing Learning Approach to Application
Even what may appear to be a simple project, can be full of learning opportunities. From learning new instrumentation and keeping variables constant to investigating outliers and trouble shooting, there are a number of ways for students to grow. These are all great aspects of learning that can be discussed in a college essay or for a teacher to speak about in a letter of recommendation when applying for college. As for careers, the long-term project management skills and perseverance needed to do good science research is transferable to any career.
Interest, the Key to Successful Presentation
My biggest piece of advice would be to pick a project that really interests you. To find out if you are truly interested, you need to sit down and read, then talk to people about what you learned. If you’re bored before you even start the conversation, get a new project.
Mentors can be found everywhere. You may have a grandparent that is really into astronomy or a neighbor who secretly builds trebuchets on the weekends. Professional organizations like Audubon, American Chemical, Geological, and Archeological societies may have local chapters in your area with a membership base of potential mentors. Universities often have summer research opportunities for students who know the selection process starts as early as November. I have known students to cold call or email professors with some success, but be prepared for a lot of rejection before you find a willing mentor; many professors don’t know the caliber of student creativity out there.
Parental Guide Pays Off
Give kids time, space, some supplies, and the confidence to err and they will make amazing discoveries. As a lab supervisor, my primary role is safety and asking questions that get the students to think about what they are doing or observing.
Awards and Degrees
I have a B.S. In Chemistry from Boise State University which is also where, just after graduation, I had my first teaching position for a semester. I then studied Polymer Chemistry and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. While in graduate school, I was awarded an NSF Graduate K-12 Fellowship and was able to teach elementary science for 3 years. With my degree, I taught at Pacific University for one year as a sabbatical replacement and have been at Oregon Episcopal School for the last 6 years. In addition to teaching Chemistry, managing the research lab, and co-directing our science fair, I also teach Judo at my local community center.
The Self Critic Attitude
Go to a regional fair and see what is being done or check out the abstracts online for the 2 fairs mentioned. But never be discouraged, you are often the harshest critic when it comes to your own work. Also, sophisticated isn’t always the best. Sometimes complicated problems have elegant solutions that no one visualized yet.
Aftermath of Science Fairs
Students get to interact with other kids with similar goals and interests. Some of them continue relationships into college. Also, entering competitions gives you a goal post. It is not the finish line because good research can go on indefinitely, but deadlines can be a great motivator.
Science Fairs in School
I didn’t even know there was such a thing in high school. I enjoyed science but didn’t begin doing research until college.
Jennifer Hellier,Associate Director of Programs,University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Amy Schauer,Program Coordinator,West Linn-Wilsonville School District