An Honorable Mention Snub

by Jethro Swain

I am utterly enraged at the result of this year’s science fair.

Not because anyone who did win didn’t deserve to win, but because I deserved to win.

And not because I deserved to win Best in Fair, or a trip to ISEF or ISWEEP or whichever “I.S.” fair was available. Not even because I deserved a first place award, or a special award where you win a medal or something else lame like a scholarship. Not EVEN because I didn’t win second place or third place.

I’m furious that I didn’t win the best award of them all: Honorable Mention.

Honorable Mention is easily the most sought after award at the Aardvark Science Expo and I’ll tell you why.

First the ribbon is yellow and that is the closest to Gold. Second you don’t have to go to the intel science fair and miss school to be at PSU, something which I did in 5th grade when my science research career peaked.

(BETTINA IF YOU ARE READING THIS SKIP STRAIGHT TO THE FOURTH REASON) Third, you don’t have to put in that much work and you still get an award to look good. I get that many people want to put in the work and strive for 1st place or best in fair, and I’m honestly jealous that they can put in that time, but I’m not going to put in nearly that much effort. Honorable mention is the perfect level of work effort to recognition. (OK BETTINA YOU CAN READ AGAIN THANKS)

And finally, if I had won honorable mention this year, it would’ve been my third honorable mention in a row, and my fourth honorable mention in five science fairs, an impeccable feat.

In seventh grade Jake C. and I won an honorable mention for our project that had something to do with putting wings on a toy car. The previous two years Emerson L. and I partnered up to do projects, and both years we won the prestigious yellow ribbon.

Freshman year our project “The Effect of Ultraviolet and Infrared Light Rays on Plant Growth” won honorable Mention in Plant Sciences, and our project “Creating a Wind Powered Bike Light” won an honorable mention Electrical Engineering.

Freshman year we were ecstatic, flaunting our ribbons in front of the rest of our class, even though I think roughly 2/3 of our class won a first place award, and making sure Catherine knew we won so that our grade would improve. Last year was an even greater feat because it was our second in a row and we were underdogs because our bike light didn’t even work.

So that’s why I’m furious that neither I nor Emerson didn’t win this year. Three honorable mentions in a row is unheard of. I dare any science teacher to tell me that they had a student win three honorable mentions in a row and not go on to work for NASA.

I firstly blame the judges for not believing that I could explain how brilliant my project was because I only got three judges out of a total of five judges that were in my category. “I think the system is pretty corrupt because I only got two judges when other people got five, so I feel that I didn’t get a fair chance to show my project off,” said Emerson who was also in my category.

Given to me by Bettina about two days before we had to have our project ideas, my project this year was titled “Soil Quality Using Nematodes as a Bioindicator.” One judge who critiqued my project came up and told me three things that were wrong with my project, didn’t give me a chance to respond to any of his comments, and then left.

While just now making this article I realized one flaw in my board. When I went to copy and paste the question I was answering in my project because I’m lazy, I noticed that I have under “Question” the statement “The purpose of this project is to determine the quality of different samples of soil from both disturbed and undisturbed locations using nematodes as a bio-indicator,” which is the format you write for an engineering project, so that could possibly be why I didn’t win.

My project was to measure the number of nematodes in three different soil samples, one from the lower school construction site, another from the small creek that runs along Nicol Rd. and a third from a wildlife area out somewhere near Riverdale I forget where really, but basically from an undisturbed forest.

Now as you can see from my data table below, my results were 100% accurate. I had zero standard deviation as well as a perfect linear trend.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 1.28.21 PM

(This is actually my data table I wish I was being that funny.)

I was unsure why the judges wouldn’t pick a project that had such perfect results to win some sort of award, but I guess science has changed from what it used to be.


I would say that next year I’ll be back to win the illustrious 4th honorable mention, but that would be so far from the truth because I do not want to do another one of those time consuming, infuriating projects again. For those of you who love science research keep doing it, it can really provide you some great opportunities, but I’m out.

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