“Science Fair Season”
Science Fair Season: Twelve Kids, A Robot Named Scorch and What It Takes to Win by Judy Dutton (Hyperion 2011)
Don’t let the title fool you. Judy Dutton’s written documentary of a dozen high school teenagers caught up in an international competition is much more than engineering and science. It’s a story of passion, determination, disappointment and dreams.
The author introduces us to the childhood of each student she follows in the 2009 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Their interests, family support and path to state and regional fairs is described. Their parents recognized early that their son or daughter had more than a passing interest in such things as horses, honeybees or cockroaches. Some developed an intense thirst for knowledge about nuclear energy and solar power. In one case, a young teen turned her own diagnosis of leprosy into an opportunity to educate others about the disease. Another teen created a glove allowing a hearing-impaired person to commmunicate with others by signing letters that would appear on a screen in text. As one professor noted, “High schoolers are now solving problems that have puzzled scientists for years.”*
The 2009 ISEF was held in Reno, Nevada. Approximately 1500 high school students from 50 countries met for a weekend of excitement, nerves and fun. They competed for a total of $4 million in prizes and scholarships. After reading “Science Fair Season” you’ll have a new appreciation of fellow students who may not participate in the usual high school activities but have a rich social and intellectual life. After all, competition makes for a better product, service and person.
*Larry Bellipanni, professor of biological sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi.