2012 Santa Cruz County Science & Engineering Fair Invites Discovery
When you wash your fleece clothing and other synthetics, are you feeding bite-sized plastic to the bottom of the marine food chain? Answering this question led one Santa Cruz County student from an article online, to an expert in England, to her family’s washing machine. She devised an experiment to capture water from her washing machine, sample it, force it through a fine filter with a vacuum pump, count tiny plastic fibers under a microscope, repeated many times. Based on her research into what local water treatment plants remove from our wastewater the answer she gave Science & Engineering Fair judges was, yes, when you launder synthetic fleece you are at least offering plastic to our bay’s food chain.
This student in the Junior (grades 6 – 8) age division was one of 487 curious and persistent students from Santa Cruz County who brought an amazing range of projects to the county fairgrounds on March 10, 2012. Anyone who visited the public viewing of projects on Saturday evening was given free admission to explore projects on magnetic forces, air resistance in car profiles, digestive gas, color vision in dim light, computer user interfaces, material shapes that resist water erosion, algorithms for diagnosing cancer, wasp eggs creating tree galls that jump, an ancient resurgence in genetic diversity among ammonoids, a laboratory inside a robot, river water quality near orangutan habitats, and much more.
This year, the 351 individual and team projects were reviewed by more than 150 volunteer judges representing local scientists, university research staff, educators, graduate students and community partners. What lures a volunteer judge to rise early one Saturday and spend the day at the County Science & Engineering Fair? Certainly civic duty and desire to encourage young minds in the process of scientific discovery and critical thinking, but also the joy of seeing so many novel ideas, clever approaches, and interesting results. Volunteering as a judge, or visiting with the public can fill a person with awe as they stand among the hundreds of projects and try to imagine how much time and thought went into creating them.
At the March 20, 2012 Science & Engineering Fair Awards Ceremony, winners of category awards and special awards received ribbons, prizes, certificates, and scholarship money. For one night at the Civic Auditorium in Santa Cruz, these science “rock stars” were on stage being recognized and honored for their accomplishments. Based on our county's high participation rate and award winning status over the years, Santa Cruz County is allotted 40 project entries in the California State Science & Engineering Fair. Generous funding from Seagate Technology has continued to provide support for selected student award winners in grades 6-12 to attend the State Science & Engineering Fair in Los Angeles this year. In addition, Seagate funding provides travel costs for two High School finalists to attend the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). This year our County Science & Engineering Fair ISEF student finalists include Saige Manier from Harbor HS with her research project, “Jumping Galls: A Novel Mechanism for Motility” and Rose Leopold from Pacific Collegiate School with her project, “Morphological Disparity During the Ammonoid Recovery After the Permian Mass Exctinction.” These two student researchers will be traveling to Pittsburgh in May to participate in a forum for more than 1500 students from over 65 nations, competing for high-stake scholarships and international recognition.
Anyone interested in participating in the Santa Cruz County Science & Engineering Fair next year—whether as a student competing or as a volunteer judge—can find more information on our web site.