Science is not always Fair

Isaac just got back from the district science fair and he gets to take his Mervan project on to the regional fair at BYU at the end of this month. He’s excited about this because they have things like rock climbing and other activities, and disappointed that he’ll be fed pizza for lunch (he’s allergic to milk and dislikes pizza.) Dean and I are something of science fair agnostics, because Dean’s observation of the judging (he was a judge last year) is that it’s just hard for most non-scientist parents to really fairly assess the quality of the science.  He also says it’s heart-breaking judging the projects of kids who clearly had less parental guidance or support, and whose projects are therefore kind of unfocused (even though the kids may be no less talented than others.)  Anyway, science-wise, Isaac’s project was just as good last year but perhaps a little less easily understood to a lay audience, and Isaac didn’t make it to region.  So the whole thing is pretty subjective, in Dean’s (totally objective, of course) opinion.  But we’re of course happy for Isaac – this year.

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6 Responses to Science is not always Fair

  1. Melanie J says:

    I am soooo not looking forward to science fair project days. Grr.

  2. I love the pictures. What a handsome kid, and congratulations on all the success. We will be rooting for him on the next round!

  3. Trina says:

    Congrats to Isaac! We’re done with SFs for the year since Sheridan didn’t go past District. He was pretty disappointed that night but he got over it pretty quickly. You hate to see the kids upset, but selfishly, I was really glad to not have to worry about another fair. Although it does sound like Regional Fair has more going for it than the others.

  4. danithew says:

    I don’t ever remember having anything to do with a science fair. (Sigh)

    Those of us without the math/science skills are proud of the family members who’ve got them!

  5. Aunt Ginger says:

    One year I was asked to judge our local elementary school science fair. I chose all the projects that obviously looked like a KID had done all the planning, drawing, posters, and science work. I made more than a few of the judges and parents mad. I was not invited back to be a part of the judging the next year!

    In Virginia, science projects begin in grade school and NEVER end until you graduate from High School. Our family of seven children has collectively participated in more than 50 science projects. When Christian rolled around into the Yorktown AP physics class, I wrote a plea for clemency which evidently caused hysterics at the science teachers lunch table and was posted for some time on the Physics Lab bulletin board. Clemency was not granted.

    A word to the wise: If you have multiple children who will be doing multiple projects over multiple years choose ONE very involved LONG term project for them all to participate in doing. One clever boy in our community chose a four year project on soil improvement through the use of mulch (otherwise know as left-over table scraps). He marked off test plots and counted worms and did soil testing, and all else that was needed to send him to the State science fair year after year.

    Have fun! We are in our LAST YEAR of science fairs and I WILL NOT UNDER ANY CONDITION HELP ANYBODY ELSE EVER WITH THEIR SCIENCE PROJECTS!

    Aunt Ginger

  6. zstitches says:

    This Mervan project was pretty time-intensive, and I kept telling Dean: “Remember you have three [and now four] more kids coming along to help with science projects — PLEASE don’t do something with Isaac that you can’t live up to with subsequent kids.” At least Dean is the designated science fair assistant in our family (as is he also the Pinewood Derby assistant,) but I get jealous of Dean’s time when I consider that while he was helping with that science project he could have, say, painted the girls’ bedroom for me.

    Last year Ike’s project involved dropping strong little magnets down a copper pipe, and electromagnetic resistance would cause the magnet to drop very slowly (I think about 5 seconds to fall down a 3 foot pipe? Or maybe 3 seconds. Okay, I admit it, I’m making the numbers up. But the magnet would fall slowly, and it was cool.) Dean and Ike had wanted to build a “mag-lev” (electromagnetic levitation) train, which is a train that uses those same forces — strong magnets on the train, and a metal (copper?) rail — to cause the train to ride elevated from the tracks. But to build a complete working train like that turned out to be too involved of a project for one science fair. Then, at the fair, another team of kids had built a “mag-lev” train — only it was actually a magnetic track and the train was being elevated by magnetic repulsion, which is completely different (and more mundane, and less cool, and less hard to do,) than a train that’s actually elevated by electromagnetism. But none of the parent volunteer judges realized this distinction, and I don’t think they realized, either, that Isaac’s magnets dropped slowly because of electromagnetism (and not just magnetic repulsion,) and the faux mag-lev train did get picked to go to region and Isaac’s project didn’t. SO, Isaac was pretty indignant, and his disappointment really had more to do with that specific injustice than with his wanting to go to region.

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