Despite a year filled with challenges and planning obstacles, local middle school and high school students will still compete in the 42nd annual Regional Science Fair on March 27 as the event will be held virtually this year.
Middle school and high school students from public and private schools in Oneida, Herkimer Lewis and Otsego counties will showcase projects in different areas in physical science, natural science and math, engineering and computer science. Senior-level students will be eligible to compete at the 2021 Virtual Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).
The virtual opening remarks and keynote speech will start at 10 a.m. and Utica College alumnus Dr. Amanda Saravia-Butler, a scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, is the keynote speaker.
“I am most looking forward to giving our local middle and high school students an opportunity to share their interests in science and the hard work and dedication they put into their science projects regardless of the challenges our local schools faced this year,” Biology Professor Jessica Thomas said.“ Students look forward to this event every year and our Science Fair Committee is thrilled to provide this enriching experience for our local students.”
The planning process for this event was different than in past years. Making the event virtual posed challenges for faculty and students, but with collaboration, everything is set for the March 27 event.
According to Dr. John Schwoebel, associate professor of psychology and one of the science fair organizers, planning this event is normally like playing 3D chess. However, the committee had to reimagine the fair in order for it to be conducted remotely and this involved a lot of additional planning, organization and communication.
Judges will score projects asynchronously based on materials submitted by students. The award ceremony will take place online from 5 to 6 p.m. on March 30 online where prize recipients in each category will be announced along with special award recipients and grand prize recipients. This event is open to science fair participants including students and their parents/guardians, teachers, project mentors, judges and committee members.
The science fair is important for not only students but faculty as well. It brings together students to get them involved in science and also encourages them to pursue science and become leaders in society, Thomas said.
“I think it is vitally important to encourage and celebrate scientific exploration, which is what I think this science fair does well,” Schwoebel said. “We live in a time where we face multiple threats, including global warming, systemic racism and the COVID-19 pandemic. If we are going to be successful in addressing these challenges, we must encourage and support science education.”