Ingenuity will be erupting at the 56th annual Santa Barbara County Science Fair today at UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion.
The fair runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and features exhibits from over 140 junior high and high school students in the county. The annual event offers over $3,000 in prizes to students for creative, original exhibits and an opportunity to advance to the California State Science Fair in May.
Shea Lovan, organizing committee president, said the event showcases experiments from a wide assortment of different scientific disciplines.
“We’re looking for projects where the students have accurately followed the scientific method and interpreted the data collected,” Lovan said. “We have over 120 projects split between a whole variety of disciplines.”
In the past, winning experiments have ranged from a psychological experiment to an analysis of the spatial relations of pigeons. The event has been held at UCSB for the past six years and involves several local organizations that help sponsor awards for the students.
“The Nanosystems CSI is putting on a science expo for students who are not finalists,” Lovan said. “Students can also have lab tours and demos. The UCen does a great job of making the fair possible. It’s been remarkably easier to put the fair on.”
Kim Miller, an eighth-grade science teacher at Goleta Valley Junior High School, said the science fair is an opportunity for students to explore their curiosity.
“It starts from [students’] interests and nurtures native interests,” Miller said. “We don’t impose anything from outside. We want the projects to be natural and organic. We make sure students are motivated to question their world.”
Miller said the project implores students to not only ask questions, but seek the answers.
“Developing questions is one of the finest arts of being human,” Miller said. “Behind every question lurks the science of a project … it’s really about teaching rational thinking.”
The fair’s partnership with UCSB allows for students to both exhibit their projects and become familiarized with the campus. Jeff Gilder — a third-year psychology major and volunteer at Goleta Valley Junior High School through UC Santa Barbara’s Education Program — said UCSB’s involvement is a large part of the fair’s culture.
“The students really look forward to showing their projects off and exploring UCSB,” Gilder said. “They love being on a college campus and getting a preview of life after junior high. It’s great to see kids excited about academics.”
Miller said the involvement of UCSB students is increasingly important in today’s academic climate.
“Public education is under threat,” Miller said. “If there are any students who think they may like to volunteer in the schools, they would be completely welcome. The students really respond to [UCSB student] role models.”