Peter Langley’s Final Science Fair

Noah Wali 

As Science Research comes to an end this year, we say goodbye to a key member of the fluidity and success of the project: Peter Langley himself.

2008 Peter Langley Science Expo

Pictured above is Peter Langley from the 2008 OES science fair.

Peter has been at OES since the turn of the century and the joy, hard work and compassion he has brought to this school and community won’t go unnoticed and will live on forever. This is not his farewell article, however, Peter does plan on retiring at the end of this year. Don’t fret, a more detailed and heartfelt article is in the works for Peter. I simply sat down with Peter this past week to reminisce about his time in the science fair and to chat about the future of SRP.

“Science research began in 1984; It was started by Dr. Bill Lamb, who was a chemistry teacher at the time, and he had a vision that all students should be doing hands-on science,” Peter tells me. “It started small with Dr. Lamb’s class and slowly spread amongst other classes.” Peter assumes it began with an in-house fair in the ’80s, and when the Northwest Science Expo was created in the early 2000s through the help of Bill Lamb, science research took off in Portland and at OES. “We used to send almost all of our students there,” Peter mentioned. It wasn’t until other schools caught on that they started limiting the amount of projects schools could send to NWSE that the OES science fair was born in 2006. They had to have a way to neutrally judge projects to send the best ones onto the regional fair. Now, the top 3 places in each category can go onto NWSE. 

Peter hadn’t seen anything like our own SRP when he taught back in the UK. However, when Peter taught at an international school in Japan for a number of years, he bore witness to a long-term project of some sort. It didn’t have to be science, but Peter did get to help some students work through a hypothesis and test it. “When I was hired, I knew they were looking for teachers who could handle projects. My experience in Japan helped me a lot,” says Peter. 

“It took us a while to get in the routine of the projects, but bit by bit, I got better, and now I know what to expect. You should see what we had to do with the boards. You had to photocopy everything, paste it on, matte it. They took days. It was incredible. The best ones were great and the worst ones were awful. Nowadays you can get a very good final product, we’ve come a long way on the technology,” Peter remarked. “There can be a little bit of uniformity at times.” Peter’s face lit up with delight when he told me how happy it makes him to see all of the boards set up at Sparc. I could tell he was going to miss the science fair next year. “My heart skips a beat. I am very proud of our research project. It’s not perfect, everyone’s different. It’s messy, projects fall through the cracks. But it’s real science, doing labs isn’t real science. Here, you have an idea, you test it. You don’t really know the end result. That’s real science. People often ask me ‘is this the right answer?’ With the research projects you never quite know. It’s what science is all about,” Peter says. Peter believes OES could be one of the only schools where everybody participates in a science project. 

Peter has particularly loved projects with animals and plants. “Computers? Really?” Peter says jokingly. Peter did mention he would be back to judge, which is exciting news. When asked about the direction of the fair, Peter mentioned how “The science fair has been chipped away for several years now. Over the years, we’ve lost the middle school, the seniors, and now the ninth grade. It was really a massive gathering of people. I was sad to see it dwindle down since I’ve loved the projects and the process over the years. The seniors used to go down and judge the middle school projects and I really miss that. We used to be the biggest science fair in the state, this year I don’t think we are.” Peter hopes to see the science fair stick around in some shape or form, but he knows that the project is in good hands as he retires. 

Peter, we will miss you and the heart and soul you put into the science research project at OES. We would not be here without you.