Middle School Adapts to New Science Fair Format


John Overend

The 8th Grade Westminster Science Fair, an integral 8th-grade tradition within the Middle School, allows many 8th-grade students to complete a comprehensive science project which nurtures a scientific curiosity among many.

In years past, the fair looked and felt very different. The 8th-grade students would collaborate with a partner in class to brainstorm, research, and present their projects to a committee of teachers, parents, and alumni. 8th-grade science teacher Florence Sumner emphasizes that the fair was a very public event. “[The students] set up boards all around, and the whole school got to see them. We invited the parents [to watch].” 

After winners were selected, the students advanced to the regional fair. “The regional fair in the past was an all-day thing,” says Sumner. “We would leave school about 8:30 [AM] with packed lunches and go to wherever the site was. [We would] spend all day there waiting because you didn’t know when you were going to be called. We would just all sit around and wait and practice, and then come back around 2:30 [PM].” These regional fairs cannot exist during the pandemic. A bus full of students traveling to another school to wait in a gym for most of the day does not follow safety procedures in any fashion. 

This year has provided a stark contrast. The Georgia Science and Engineering Fair (GSEF) has therefore adjusted its policy regarding the regional science fair. This year, instead of creating a tri-fold poster board, students made a PowerPoint presentation that could be sent to judges. The students “attending” the regional fair participated in a Zoom meeting with the judges. Sumner was largely pleased with the process. “The [projects] I saw seemed to go pretty well. The judges asked questions [to the students],” says Sumner. 

However, with a new virtual format for the science fair comes new issues. The judging ran an hour behind schedule, which confused students and teachers alike. Luckily, the students participating in the regional fair were able to present to their judges.

The students who win at the regional fair advance to the state fair. This year, Westminster sent an astounding three out of seven middle school teams to the state fair: Cooper Dietz and Stan Watkins; Iman Merchant, Arnika Alikhani, and Katie Koenning; and Ayan Chaganthi and Alex Guido. These teams will compete in the state tournament from March 29 – April 9, 2021. Hopefully, they go on to win!