The Power of the Science Fair

I can still remember how excited I got in junior and senior high school when it was science fair season. My friends and I would kick around ideas and make elaborate plans for what we were certain would be that year's shoo-in winner of the school fair. And once we captured the school's top prize, we would surely breeze through the city, county, and state prizes -- all the way to the nationals. But while we never made it to the nationals (nor to the state, county, or city competitions), we still couldn't wait to work on our science fair creations each year.

One year I used some little-known-at-the-time gibberellic acid to create monster plants far larger than normal. Another year I demonstrated how the earth's magnetic field had flipped numerous times over the millennia. And yet another year I showed how chlorofluorocarbons from spray cans were destroying the Earth's atmosphere.

This past week I was reminded that the science fair is alive and well, and it's still inspiring students across the country to pursue educations in science, technology, engineering, and math. I received this reminder when my youngest son Jack brought home a note from his science teacher announcing that students who attended the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair this upcoming weekend would receive bonus points on their grade. I told Jack that, extra credit or not, we were going.

I personally can't wait to see how Jack reacts to being immersed in the fair environment, with about 800 students showing off their creations. Like me, he's already a bit science-y. Maybe Jack will be inspired enough to enter next year's school science fair. And, who knows, that just might lead to a college major and an eventual career in some technology-related field.

While I can't see Jack's future quite yet, I do know that science fairs are a great way to engage students in the joy of technology, and to spur them on to careers that will help fill the current gap between the needs of U.S. technology industries, and the supply of people who are qualified to fill these jobs.

See you at the fair!

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I run a science discovery centre in the UK and I actually get paid to see this sort of excitement every day! We have just celebrated National science and engineering week which lasted 12 days! Huge fun and so much awe and wonder you wouldn't believe it! I hope Jack enjoys the fair

...and then some children grow up to be extraordinary. I love the movie October Sky. These kids won their science fair and scholarships to college from a small coal mining town in W.V. I show this movie to my students every year.