Sunday, March 14, 2010

Southeast Alaska Regional Science Fair - Great Work, Great Kids, Great Mentors

We went to the Southeast Alaska Regional Science Fair yesterday. I wouldn't have known anything about it except one of the participants had emailed to get permission to use a cow parsnip picture he found on my blog.

The gym at Juneau-Douglas High School was crowded and noisy, but we found the cow parsnip experiment pretty quickly.

Here's David, a bit surprised that I actually showed up, explaining his project using ground up cow parsnip mixed with water to test whether it would kill mosquito larvae.  I talked to a lot of kids about their projects and all were as enthusiastic and knowledgeable.  I did keep the camera close to his face because I was afraid the background noise would drown out his voice.   Below are pictures of other exhibits to give you an idea of the wide range of topics explored.

All these pictures can be enlarged with a double click.

There were a lot of projects relating to marine biology which makes sense in a place like Juneau.  This one is on the Effect of Seawater Ph level of Kelp Egg Development.  But it made more sense when I found this on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) webpage:

The Auke Bay Lab (ABL) has become a major contributor to the success of the SASF. More than 25% of the ABL staff serves as mentors; projects generally take several months for students to complete. In addition, more than 50% of ABL staff serves as judges for the fair. ABL staff members represent a significant proportion of the fair’s board of directors and were responsible for developing the rules for judging. In the last five years at least one of the projects advancing to ISEF has been mentored by ABL staff and these projects have won prizes in three of the last five years.

This one is clear if you enlarge it.

I stopped at this project because I've used a Prisoner's Dilemma exercise in my classes for years and also got involved with some of the Experimental Economics lab work that Vernon Smith set up when he was a visiting professor at UAA. Again, I stayed close to the faces because I was afraid the voices would get lost in the din, but it was ok. The programs didn't make it home with us, so I wasn't sure about the spelling of these two budding psychologists' names. [Let me know and I'll re-edit the video.]  I would have done more videos, but my battery light was blinking.  I could take pictures, but not video.

I was impressed with every student I spoke to.  They were all ready to explain in great detail how they did their projects and what they learned.  This one found, using a particular instrument for testing arrogance and vanity, that both the girls and boys were about equally arrogant, but the girls outpaced the boys in vanity (lower right bar chart.)

When the announcement came to close down about 1:30, you could tell that these kids had other things they wanted to do with their Saturday afternoon.  Projects were dismantled and tables were folded and gone in record speed.


  1. The girl in the video on the right side (who talks a lot) is hot. :D
    Well, to be serious the topic is quite interesting to me despite it is more or less Biology-Psychology orientated. We had to make a similar presentation on history class. My topic was US economy between 1865 and 1914. It was fun because it was one of the few occasions when I was extremely confident during a presentation.

  2. So. . . tell us more about the experiment on how males work out depending on the gender of the observer. That should be fascinating.

    All of these are great.

    My husband is working with my middle school sons on science fair projects today.


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