by Abe Asher
Science Fair award night hasn’t always been circled on my calendar.
Until this year, my three favorite science fair moments had been:
1. Getting destroyed by Bill Lamb freshman year.
2. Getting destroyed by Bill Lamb sophomore year.
3. Skipping part of the evening fair last year to watch the US-Canada Olympic hockey game.
My favorite thing to do during the awards ceremony is find a celebrity look-alike in the crowd of parents, journalists, and Intel executives. This year, I could have sworn I was sitting three chairs away from JK Simmons, who has been called a poor man’s Hugo Ramirez-Pineda.
There are certain awards I look forward to more than others, like the annual Wishful Thinking Award from Oregon State, where a student that is probably most certainly not going to Oregon State is given enough money to pay for three days of college and a sandwich in the school cafeteria.
I had not won a science fair award myself since my very first fair in the first grade, when my project was titled, I Cut Open A Baseball To See What Was Inside.
One or two people called me a “phenom,” and “prodigy,” but I did everything I could to dispel those notions by following up my baseball experiment not making any progress in the field.
Of course, some leading magazines wanted me to follow up by cutting open a golf or tennis ball, but I decided to focus on spending time with my family.
Eventually I came back, though, and this year was my eleventh and final fair. And as you might know by now, nothing was the same.
That is mostly due to Calla S., who, in a moment that fans and critics alike will wonder about for the next fifty years, asked me to do a project with her.
I jumped at the opportunity, in part because the project was about gender stereotypes, and would be placed in the Human Subjects category. In other words, it wasn’t real science.
I smile every time I think about that.
We ended up doing a very decent job with the project, and did a decent job presenting as well. But because we finished talking to judges early on, I spent an hour and fifteen minutes trying to sneak past Jaqui “The Sixth Sense” Gardener and Bevin “The Enforcer” Daglen to talk to people in other parts of the fair.
By the time I came up with my best idea, “getting a drink of water,” and getting lost on the way back to my board in the non-judged section, I had a reputation as someone to be watched.
There are several ways that the judging portion of the Science Fair could be spiced up — read, betting — but there’s an annoying commitment to the integrity of the process that has stifled more than one good idea — read, judges knocking boards that are no longer under consideration for awards over — over the years.
As I was sitting down next to JK Simmons and a number of other friends and competitors, something very surprising happened: We won.
Note: Winning is defined as first, second, third, honorable mention, a special award, or a compliment from John Holloran.
The first thing I thought when I saw a smiling Deri Bash extending his hand to me holding a ribbon, “Wow, thanks Deri Bash,” and the second thing was, “Wait, where’s Jordan Elliott?”
Some of more conspiracy-minded folks covering the fair ventured that Jordan and Mo Copeland herself skipped the fair altogether to avoid damaging their considerable reputations by being photographed handing me a science award.
There’s even a rumor that Jeff Sprague resigned in protest because of our win. And I now that I think about it, I haven’t seen him since the fair. Strange.
No, I’m not the scientist I once was. I’m a bit of a nomad. I tried a TV show for a while, but was fired for saying that Bill Nye, “doesn’t make cool videos.”
There has been a lot of talk about the movie Searching For Bobby Fisher in the Aardvark Dig newsroom this week (it is, in fact, Liam’s favorite film of all-time, beating out such classics as Rocky IV and Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook), and if you want some insight into my science career, I suggest that film is a good place to start.
What’s next for me, you ask?
I’m not running for President – no one can take Hilary, right? – but when that Governor’s seat opens up in the Special Election in 2016 (thanks Kitz!) I might take my shot.
Thank you for all of your support. It has been one hell of a ride, and it’s not over yet.