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Note: This post also appeared in my personal blog.

They Were Big

Science Fairs were once a big deal.  At least it seemed that way to me.  Now it seems not so much and I think that is a real shame.

Personal Experience

I have fond personal memories of science fairs.  Growing up I reached “science fair” age in the late sixties.  Space was big and science was big.  And almost every school had a science fair.  My science fairs were in Junior High, which in my school district was 7th – 9th grade.  I think I managed an Honorable Mention and a 2nd Place.  Whoever got first place went on to the state finals.  It was a big deal.

My Son’s Experience

My son hit the same age around the mid 2000s. He managed a first place in the Ecology Division, and later a Grand Prize for a project that used a model rocket to collect meteorite dust.  Of course as his Dad I helped, and the whole family had a blast launching the rockets, one of which was too heavy and caused us to scatter to avoid the falling pieces!. He even made the front page of the local paper.

Then They Stopped

By the time my son hit high school science fairs suddenly stopped.  I’m not sure why, but it wasn’t just our local school.

Maybe it was too much work for teachers and school officials.  They did take a lot of organization.  Some have claimed that they weren’t fair because the students that did well usually had parents that helped, and many parents just didn’t care.  I get that but maybe activities like Science Fairs encourage parents to get involved.

As a parent the key was to help and advise, but not do the project for the student.  At one of our fairs the students had to stay with their projects, and the judges asked them questions to verify they really knew their project.  That was probably a good idea.

But today it seems like nobody talks much about science fairs.  I never see articles covering them in the local newspaper.  And if there is coverage on the Internet I haven’t seen it.

Biggest Fairs Now

My research showed that science fairs are not completely dead.  The biggest seems to be the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF..)  First Place gets a $5000 prize.  The 2024 fair will be held in Los Angeles.

Bring Them Back

There is a big push to get young people into science and technology careers.  It seems Science Fairs can only help.   Let’s bring them back!