By Wylly Wilmott
In every community, people have conflicting opinions and varying degrees of investment regarding any given topic, and while OES is no exception, I know we can all agree science research is basically the reason us ‘Varks get up in the morning.
While all of us 9th-11th graders (and a few select seniors) explored different topics, it seems that the science fair process was quite similar for most of us. It probably looked something like immediately knowing your research question, spending next to no time on background research, and breezing through data collection. A common conversation topic throughout the fall was how stress-free and easy getting everything done was. Many students self-reflected that they “should have done more procrastinating,” and by the time winter break rolled around not a single person could be found in the lab, except maybe to reminisce on all the fun times they had experimenting with how (insert independent variable here) affected their (insert dependent variable here).
*Some of my previous statements may have been an exaggeration and/or fabrication.
So while how much fun each individual has with the process varies, it is uncontested that OES’ annual science fair is a staple of our high school experience. And for some, the fun doesn’t end in February.
I got the chance to attend NWSE this past Friday, and going in I really didn’t know what to expect. While I signed up with the intent of experiencing something new and pursuing an interest unrelated to sports, by the time April 12th rolled around I was beginning to regret my decision.
The day got off to a bit of a slow start, and I assumed my preemptive regret would be validated, but the hour I spent waiting for the fair to begin between setup and judging was both the only negative part of the day and an easily preventable occurrence. There was a check-in and setup window the night before which I would recommend to anyone looking to go to NWSE in the future. If you take that option, you don’t have to arrive at PSU until 10:30 on Friday.
The first session of judging started at 10:30. While waiting for judges at their posters, participants did a variety of things. Some caught up with friends or met new people, others learned about their neighbor’s projects, and some just stared off into space with empty looks on their faces. While I wouldn’t recommend the latter, I enjoyed meeting kids from around Oregon as well as partaking in another experience pretty unique to NWSE; judging middle school projects.
Being only a year removed from middle school myself, I forgot how highly younger kids view high schoolers. I was initially proud of the intimidation effect I had on them, but that soon disappeared when I was unable to comprehend the concepts being mumbled by a couple of fidgety 6th graders. I had better luck with the next few kids… I swear. Regardless of (my lack of) understanding, I have to admit having the power to decide even people’s short term fate is pretty entertaining. (conclusion, power=strong motivator @english9 @debbyschauffler @thesis_statements)
At 12 we were given time to eat and explore the area before judging started up again at 1. I had a surprisingly fun time talking to the judges, who were all super qualified and interested in what we had to say. Judging ended at 2:30 when public viewing started and we could wander around. Afterwards, we had another break before the awards ceremony, which only lasted about 45 minutes.
Bevin sent out a complete list of the honors, but a few highlights, of course, include her getting the Mary Omberg Teacher Award, Zoe Strothkamp being one of the select few to be called back for a Best of Fair interview, and Andrew Ngo winning one of the two Best of Fair awards as well as qualifying for ISEF.
I was entirely unaware of what ISEF was until I got to PSU on Friday, so if you’re completely in the dark like I was, Sophie Chen described it as a “stimulating consortium of scientifically remarkable and like-minded students that also like to have some fun. Also, sunny weather and our hotel has a pool“. Sophie will be joining Andrew as well as Aneesh Gupta, Emma Wetsel, Ryan Wescott, and Eric Lian down in Phoenix for the fair this May. When asked to comment on how it feels to qualify for ISEF, Andrew reflected; “I was extremely happy when I was called up. I had been struggling to finish my project since sophomore year, so it was great for me to see my perseverance acknowledged.” Additionally, Andrew is just the fifth person from Vietnam to qualify for ISEF this year. Qualifying is a huge achievement, so be sure to congratulate Andrew as well as the rest of the ‘Varks who will be representing Team Oregon in a few weeks.
When it comes down to it, NWSE is just a second chance to show off a project you already put a lot of work into, and many OESians walked away with cash prizes to show for their couple hour commitment. It was a super positive experience that I would definitely recommend to anyone who gets the opportunity to attend.