Science fair helps students think critically

Elizabeth Polsdofer

The 55th anniversary of the State Science + Technology Fair of Iowa, held in Hilton Coliseum and Scheman Building, hosted 650 scientists and engineers, each competing for the chance to win scholarships and a trip to the Intel International Science and Engineering Technology Fair in Pittsburgh, Pa.

The Science + Technology Fair is open to scientists and engineers grades six through 12 and is free to register.

Jay Staker, the chairman of the Board of the State Science + Technology Fair of Iowa, has participated in the Science + Technology Fair for 11 years.

“Science, engineering and technology, and mathematics are critical for the future of Iowa, for our economy, good jobs, quality of life … it really is our future,” Staker said. “If we’re going to be a state that is going to succeed, we need these citizens coming up.”

Staker was initiated into the Hall of Fame for the science fair during the award ceremony after the presentation of science fair projects. An induction into the Hall of Fame is a prestigious honor given to those who have made the largest impact to the science fair.

Staker recognized the future of Iowa depends not on scientists and engineers alone, but also on citizens who can think critically.

“Of the 650 kids that registered for this year’s fair, they won’t all be scientists or engineers, but they will all live a life that is so intertwined with those disciplines. They also will be communicators, they need to be able to think well, and that’s something we want every kid to walk away with,” Staker said.

Colton Brinks participated in the seventh-grade team project, where students partner up with a friend to create a project. Eric Brinks watched the process his son and his partner Brandon Burdine went through, creating their project this year as compared to last year.

“Last year was his first year and we found ourselves doing more of it, and this year it was less. They did most of the paperwork, putting the stuff together, they came up with the ideas on how to set up the boards and some of the stuff,” Eric Brinks said. “It was fun to watch them grow in that way.”

The two seventh graders from Glidden-Ralston Community School District used their love of the outdoors to conduct a project where they would observe the eating preferences of deer.

Brinks and Burdine left a camera outdoors to observe deer while the deer ate soybeans, apples and corn. The project was called “Deer Bait” and was displayed on a board covered in camouflage mesh that featured pictures of the deer they collected through their experiment and a summary of their methods and findings.

During the award ceremony, Cathann Kress, vice president for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, expressed the importance of scientific literacy in Iowa to the science fair participants and their families.

“This evening we celebrate you, Iowa’s young people, your scientific achievements and the joy of your discoveries,” Kress said. “And that is the key to our collective future.”