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Gwinnett Science Fair showcases promise, talent

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips<br> Collins Hill High School students Michelle McIntire, right, and Natasha Roy explain their science project on robotics assisted mobility for Cerebral Palsy and Muscular Dystrophy patients to Gwinnett County Science Fair judge Martin Burkholder on Friday. 633 students throughout grades kindergarten to college in Gwinnett County presented projects in a number of different categories this year.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
Collins Hill High School students Michelle McIntire, right, and Natasha Roy explain their science project on robotics assisted mobility for Cerebral Palsy and Muscular Dystrophy patients to Gwinnett County Science Fair judge Martin Burkholder on Friday. 633 students throughout grades kindergarten to college in Gwinnett County presented projects in a number of different categories this year.

LAWRENCEVILLE — Greater Gwinnett College hosted the state’s largest science fair, the Gwinnett Regional Science and Engineering Fair, on Friday. With more than 600 student entries, the fair may possibly be the largest such event in the country.

For the first time in the event’s 33-year history, students from elementary school through college participated in both a competitive and non-competitive format. Young scientists and engineers displayed their theories and experiments for college students, teachers, professionals and other judges to compare and examine. The 150 middle school and 450 high school entries competed for winning placement in their respective categories; the 50 elementary school entries were not judged competitively.

“We’re calling this a K-16 event this year, because Gwinnett County has so much to showcase,” said Mary Elizabeth Davis, Gwinnett County Public Schools Director of Science. The event was expanded to include elementary-age and college-level participants this year, Davis said, because “It’s our responsibility to publicize our message. We have quality kids doing sophisticated work.”

The theme of this year’s science fair was simple: “One day. One community. One vision.” On this one day, professionals, teachers and students from the community and beyond came together to create one vision — a better understanding of our world through science and technology.

Students were treated not only to the benefit of other students’ work and discoveries; professionals who use the sciences in their careers were on hand Friday, real-life examples of the practical use of science in careers. Brad Merritt, lead game designer at the Cartoon Network, was a featured guest speaker. Jeff Hill, FOX 5’s morning meteorologist, was the awards ceremony emcee.

There was an executive chef on hand, sharing how using the food sciences can be a career. A high school principal, a corporate recruiter for CCP Games — the list goes on and on — all professionals taking an interest in science’s next generation.

Exhibits on display Friday ranged from “Don’t Dip that Chip,” a scientific explanation of the effects of double dipping, to “The Effects of Temperature and Humidity on an Acoustic Guitar,” to “Psychological Priming,” an experiment that taught the scientists that the older generation is more likely to pitch in and help than the younger generation.

Mikayla Rogers, a 10th-grader at Grayson High School, built a banjo.

Danielle McKeiver, also in 10th grade at Grayson and one of the scientists who examined double dipping, said that the experience “exposed me to different types of science.” While McKeiver does not plan a career in science, “I do want to be a teacher,” she said.

Michael Sokolow, a Norcross student, presented a physics experiment that involved the effects of iron content on the exterior temperature of alloy steels.

“We had to present three ideas to our teacher. I really wanted to do this one, but she thought I should do another one,” he said.

Ultimately, Sokolow had the final say, and his entry demonstrated skill, an inquisitive young mind and an advanced understanding of scientific concepts.

The experience of participating in this Science and Engineering Fair taught Sokolow that “Scientific research is very difficult. Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. But if you care enough about your project, you’ll find a way to get it done.”