The Union Recorder

February 3, 2014

Science behind it all

Baldwin County students shine at science fair

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — More than 200 students from across central Georgia brought their science and engineering skills to Georgia College’s Centennial Center Friday and Saturday, Feb. 1.

The 37th annual Georgia College Regional Science & Engineering Fair displayed the projects of elementary, middle and high school students from a 10-county region-Baldwin, Bibb, Hancock, Jasper, Jones, Putnam, Monroe, Washington, Wilkinson and Twiggs.

Baldwin County area schools Creekside, Eagle Ridge, Blandy Hills, Midway, Sinclair Christian Academy, Oak Hill Middle, Georgia College Early College and Baldwin High brought 62 total projects to the event.

The fair provides an additional opportunity for students to exhibit their research projects. Districts submit their best projects to the competition. More than 200 area scientists, engineers, college students and educators handled the judging at the Centennial Center.

Fair participants at all K-12 levels identify problems and design unique, organized and logical strategies to finding solutions. The research process teaches students how scientists and engineers contribute to advancements in their field.

Dr. Rosalie Richards, Kaolin Endowed Chair in Science and director of the Science Education Center, said the fair is an opportunity for the entire regional community to rally around the national initiative of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“The issue is an international issue of not enough students being well prepared to enter a pipeline for this sort of rigor and also being literate about issues in STEM,” Richards said. “We have a huge gap. For us to be competitive nation, that’s even much more of a problem.”

Richards said the movement starts at the kindergarten levels and must remain consistent.

The regional fair isn’t solely a forceful push for children’s STEM future.

“What we are pushing for is for them to have the kinds of experiences that allows them to be able to use evidence to make informed decisions,” Richards said. “It doesn’t matter what that evidence is.”

Markeeta Clayton, eighth grade teacher and coordinator of Oak Hill’s qualifying science fair, was proud of the middle school’s 28 students making regionals. It’s preparing them to be confident, independent young people.

“We need thinkers,” she said. “A science fair is all about choosing and putting together an organized way to think through a process and come up with viable conclusions. Your conclusion can be viable and respected based on the research that you did.”

Also as part of the fair, students competed in the parachute design challenge, where they learn how to apply STEM principles. Participants attached washers to the constructed parachute, and the longest drop time wins.

“You see them solve their issues based on trials performed,” Clayton said. “We are trying to give them that power.”

Baldwin High junior Keleigh McGill said her project ‘Kundt’s Tube Molar Mass Detector’ taught organizational skills.

“We’d do labs in class and have this information, but I’d never know what to do with it,” McGill said. “It was a learning experience to get my data out there so others could learn as well.”

These successful projects don’t look bad on a college application either.

McGill would love to go into a mechanical engineering field. The BHS junior said this regional fair exposure shows universities work ethic put into a project.

“It’s gotten my name out in the college world,” the junior said.

The top middle and high school projects will advance to the state competition in March. The high school winners can also move on to compete in the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair in Los Angeles in May.

The junior/senior division awards ceremony takes place at 11 a.m. today (Saturday, Feb. 1) in Magnolia Ballroom.

Regional commitment to STEM related expertise could turn counties like Baldwin around.

“There has to be a literacy level to attract new businesses to the region,” Richards said. “If we are looking for a really big industry, we have to grow the workforce. We don’t have that in place right now. This is a part of that process.”

For more information on the Georgia College Regional Science & Engineering Fair, visit www.gcsu.edu/science/sciencecomps.

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