Those who say science fairs are lagging should have visited LLNL's Tri-Valley Science and Engineering Fair (TVSEF) this week. The fair marked its 15th anniversary with a 30 percent increase in participants over last year.
This year 413 best and brightest future scientists discussed their projects with seasoned scientists and engineers and competed for cash and other prizes at the Robert Livermore Community Center. Students from 22 schools in Danville, Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, San Ramon and Sunol displayed 262 projects in such categories as chemistry, computer science, engineering, physical science and medicine and health.
Judging took place Wednesday with an awards ceremony in the evening. Science projects were judged on a wide range of criteria that represent standards of research held by the scientific community. More than 150 local scientists and engineers representing LLNL and other leading Bay Area scientific organizations served as judges, with the majority representing the Lab. Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) visited with students and discussed their projects prior to the awards ceremony.
"What differentiates our fair from others is that the students are judged by working scientists," said Nadine Horner, TVSEF director from the Lab's Public Affairs Office. She added that the students also have a unique opportunity to talk with scientists about the kind of work they do, which provides a real learning experience.
The engineering project category grew this year with some 36 entries, compared to just one last year. First-time participants Alyssa Lanza, Emily Perry and Haley Vopnford worked as a team on their project, "Flaming Fancy Feet," which demonstrated how dance steps could close a switch in a circuit to power a lightbulb. The students are from Livermore High School's Green Engineering Academy, which offers a science and engineering focus in its curriculum. "This is a great experience," Lanza said about the fair.
"The fair is a fantastic way to stimulate students about science careers," said William Henzel, a retired scientist from Genentech who returned as a judge this year. "This is a key that can lead them into science."
Sweepstakes winners in the senior division category were Christina Ren, a ninth grade student from Monte Vista High School, who won for her project, "Ways to Enhance Cell Regeneration," and Ruchita Gupta and Ray Zhou, 11th grade students from Amador Valley High School, who won in the team project category with their project, "Near-infrared Light Biostimulation: A Novel Approach to the Optimization of Industrial Biosynthesis."
Winning in the junior division were: Daniel Cox, an eighth grade student from Pine Valley Middle School, who won for his project, "Aspect Ratio and Its Effect on Sail Efficiency," and Maisam Jafri, Tarun Komidi Reddy and Derek Xiao, eighth grade students from Windemere Ranch Middle School, who won in the team category for their project, "Individual Water Purification System."
In addition, more than 120 special awards in the form of scholarships, cash prizes and other nonmonetary recognition were distributed from scientific, professional, industrial, education and government organizations.
Senior division sweepstakes winners at the fair will go on to compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, May 8-13, in Los Angeles. Junior division winners are eligible to compete at the California state science fair. For more information about the TVSEF, go to the Tri Valley Science Fair Website.