Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Greenbank Middle School Science Fair

In the middle of December I was lucky enough to participate in a Greenbank Middle School Science fair in a capacity of a judge. I volunteered for it through the Let’s Talk Science Program. I had never heard about this program until someone from WISE told me about it this year. It seemed like a good idea to volunteer for the program in principle, but after the orientation session I wasn’t even sure it was for me. But as the Fall term was drawing closer and closer to the end I was getting a nagging feeling that I was not fulfilling the obligations I had taken on. So when a Science Fair Judging opportunity came up I felt I had to take it. Plus as I did not grow up in Canada I missed out on the science fair experience and here was my opportunity to be involved in one. I guess you could say I was curious.

I was so pleasantly surprised with the science fair! There were so many students who were genuinely interested in their projects and went well above and beyond any of my expectations for grade 7 and 8 students! The top 2 winners completely blew me out of the water! The first place winner built a fist-sized robot that ran around and changed direction when it detected obstacles. And it was such a simple and elegant design! The second place went to a magnetic levitation train model. Given the statistics you might not expect it, but both of these projects were made by girls! Their enthusiasm and technical knowledge where truly impressive. It wasn’t hard to tell that they designed and built their projects on their own. The most inspiring part was that despite the world telling them that engineering is a male dominated field (with all the implications thereof) they were so comfortable in their own skin! They truly belong in engineering and I hope they will find their way there.

Another project that left an impression came from the field of Social Science. The students were hypothesizing the superiority of female visual memory vs that of the males in their age group to try to explain the general trend of higher grades achieved by the girls. You can tell the students are genuinely enthusiastic about their topic when they design their own props/testing apparatus and procedure. It was impressive to see how well they followed the scientific method and their ability keep an open mind! They were not afraid to admit that their hypothesis was wrong according to their collected data and they were even quite excited about it! I think they are good candidates for the next generation of mythbusters!

All-in-all I was inspired and humbled by such passionate, capable young people. The future is in good hands! This Science Fair helped me rediscover the excitement for the Let’s Talk Science program and reminded me of an important lesson: to take as many opportunities as you can when they come your way. You never know what exciting new discoveries and experiences they will lead to!