More schools should encourage science fair participation

Twenty students from northeast Indiana are headed to represent the region at the state science fair competition this weekend and the majority of the students are from DeKalb County.

The odds of DeKalb having a strong representation at the state meet were high, considering that more students from that county participated in the Tri-State regional science fair last week than students from any other county.

The reason behind this may be the same reason that all three teachers awarded special recognition at the regional meet on March 17 are also from schools in DeKalb County.

The numbers don’t lie. More adults in DeKalb County are making the science and engineering fair a priority compared. I use the term adults and not specifically teachers because encouraging students to engage in the scientific process doesn’t always have to come from a teacher or a school administrator, although a strong science fair program often is the result of a teacher or two taking the initiative.

While the turnout from DeKalb County is impressive, as I listened to the awards being presented at the regional meet, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that West Noble High School, where I attended, didn’t have a participant at the regional meet. A number of schools were in the same situation — with no students at the regional meet. This means, in most cases, no students at that school conducted a science fair project.

As a student who absolutely loved science fair in high school, my project took me to the regional meet every year. I didn’t have much competition. I was the only student in my high school practically every year that conducted a project — eventually growing resistant E. coli in the school laboratory. If it weren’t for Mr. Randy Younce taking time out of his schedule to guide and oversee my work, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to test my hypothesis, display my findings and receive a sizable amount of scholarship money.

At the state and local level, public officials are touting the need for students to pursue STEM related fields of studies. These are the fields of studies that have promising jobs in our region. What better way to introduce a child to science, technology, engineering and math than through a science and engineering fair project?

Even those who pursue other fields of study, such as liberal arts, will benefit from being encouraged to be inquisitive about the world and how it operates. We shouldn’t assume we can always find the answers in a textbook or we can ask Google to solve our inquiry.

When talking to science fair participants last weekend, I was impressed by how Eastside seventh grader Cody Collins came up with his project’s question.

“I wanted to ask something that I couldn’t find the answer for on the internet,” Collins said.

The enthusiasm on his face was evident as he described how he compared the effectiveness of an organic biostimulant to a commercial biostimulant, finding that while the difference in effectiveness on growth was slight, the cost savings using the organic product was significant.

He was awarded for his efforts at the regional science fair, earning several awards and recognition and is one of the 20 local scientists representing the region at the state fair.

He plans to continue researching this topic by asking how the products affect a plant’s nutrient levels.

Simple questions like these stimulate young minds to question the world we live in and search for answers without assumptions — only hypotheses. They answer their questions using a scientific process — using observation, analysis and deduction to theorize. The process attempts to minimize bias and prejudice in a conclusion.

This is a skill that all students can benefit from, not matter their interests or future career goals. Therefore, we encourage more adults to help foster and support science fair in our local schools. We all benefit when students learn how to tackle problems using an investigative method to reason.

Lucretia Cardenas is the editorial director for KPC Media Group Inc. Contact her at lcardenas@kpcmedia.com.

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