Preparing the Next Generation of Scientists - CSW Science Fair 2018
Author Wade Poon
I don’t know why I love science fairs. Perhaps it’s the complicated titles that intrigue me or maybe it’s the friends that gather around posters and admire a year’s effort. I’ve been participating in science fairs for the 3 past years, but something in my mind told me that the Charter version would be be filled with unknown peculiarity, waiting to be revealed.
On January 9th, 50 CSW scientists, including parents, alumni and friends, judged over 150 junior research projects in several categories: animal science, biochemistry, microbiology, material science, physics, chemistry, computer science, botany, cellular biology, energy science, medicine, and behavioral science. Each group project was evaluated based upon creative ability, presentation, objective, thoroughness, and clarity.
Some held note cards in their hands, shaking nervously, while others repeatedly presented their poster to mentors, hoping they conveyed their information. I don’t blame them. Spending months and months of emailing professors and professionals, gathering materials, and creating posters only to be judged on a single day. Stress on everyone can certainly build up.
I walked through the hallways and in the classrooms in awe as my widened eyes set upon the content of the nearby posters, similar to a child walking through aisles of toys at Targets, pointing each product to signal his or her mother of the interest. “Cancer Detection Using DNA Based Logic Gates,” “Analyzing GE11 Specificity to ….. scrGE11 for Targeted Cancer Therapy,” “Categorizing Quiz Bowl Questions Using a Neural Network.”
My friends predicted the top three projects from the complexity, but I, on the other hand, believed that results would also depend on presentation. I see students share personal experience through junior research, acknowledging their mishaps and taking pride in their results. This is what separates the winners from the group.
I, however, was not as optimistic when preparing to present my research : “Analysis of Beta-Glucan Contents in Ganoderma, Pleurotus, Grifola, and Hericium Commercial Species by H2SO4 Hydrolysis Procedure.” Quite the title as well. I’ve had a history of uncontrollable stuttering and eye flinching when I presented to an audience. I could not suppress the butterflies fluttering in my stomach nor the beads of sweat that turned my notecards into moist, crumpled pieces of paper.
My friend, Max Medroso, showed up at the right time to provide support : “if you did your research and experiments yourself, you have nothing to worry about.” Upon realizing my unknown potential, I tossed aside my notecards, took a deep breath, entered the classroom with eager judges, and spoke.
A sigh of relief came out of every student as the science fair came to a close after 4 hours of waiting, speaking, and, fun. When I arrived home, I collapsed on my bed, knowing that I did the best I could.
There were certainly some laughs during the science fair. Max’s poster on chemical filters was so large that it touched the ceiling. I had fun talking to judges, friends, and peers about the mushrooms in my basement and their potential to grow on books and walls, the very thing my mother feared.
Even though junior research was a requirement to pass Charter, I know one thing for sure: the science fair represented the next step in creating a world that depended on new ideas and innovations. Junior research helped students like me think about careers, and most importantly, my future.