Fair showcases best of best in science

Kile Brewer
Posted 2/7/18

CLAY COUNTY – Last year during summer break, Ridgeview High School senior Jason Chen emailed NASA.

Chen was working on his project for this year’s science fair and wanted to see if they had …

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Fair showcases best of best in science

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – Last year during summer break, Ridgeview High School senior Jason Chen emailed NASA.

Chen was working on his project for this year’s science fair and wanted to see if they had the equation he was developing. They didn’t.

The math that makes up his project could help determine the optimal location for solar-powered bases on the moon by solving for the amount of sunlight that reaches any given point on a sphere. Should he make it to the state science fair competition, Chen will further develop the idea into a computer programming language that would take the math and put it in a practical form that NASA could actually use in mission planning.

“It’s just really complicated math,” Chen said when introducing his project. “Theoretically, this could work for not just our moon but other moons, and with some tweaking, for other planets and celestial bodies.”

Chen was among a couple hundred of his peers at the Clay County Rotary Science Fair held Feb. 6 at the Clay County Fairgrounds. This year, a total of 274 combined entries were accepted into both the junior and senior high divisions. Of those 274, only 14 will be selected to move forward to the state level of competition, according to Rotarian organizer Lillian Bell. This year’s event was actually a first in that the judges not only selected the winners at the county level, but also selected the 14 projects that they think would do well at state.

“So far it looks like things are running pretty smoothly,” Bell said about an hour into the fair. “This combined judging is something that has not happened before.”

Bell said the combined Rotary groups from around the county start planning the event in November each year, then representatives from each Rotary group go into their respective communities to recruit judges and get sponsors for the fair.

Projects range from the more serious technical applications of math and physics, like Chen’s project, to things more lighthearted on the junior high side such as attracting animals with light and whether or not fidget spinner toys affect students’ concentration at school. However, many judges and even school administrators were baffled by the complexity of some of the projects and the perceived advancement in learning since science fairs held decades ago.

“This proves that our teachers are getting kids actively engaged in STEM initiatives, and it just shows that they care,” said Clay County School Superintendent Addison Davis. “Our kids are more intellectually sophisticated than I was, they would’ve blown my project away.”

As he walked from one tri-fold piece of cardboard to the next, Davis was in awe at the level of thinking going on throughout Clay County schools, and stood proud to be at the helm of a school district producing such competent young people.

“Science is becoming a bigger part of our everyday lives,” Davis said. “These kids are learning quick thinking, and problem solving, but also learning to engage with adults as well as public speaking.”

The State Science and Engineering Fair will be held the last week in March in Lakeland where the 14 students selected from Clay County will participate with students from across the state prior to the international level of competition in June.

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