UHD is sponsoring the 50th anniversary Science and Engineering Fair of Houston on Friday and Saturday, March 13-14, at the George R. Brown Convention Center, featuring projects from area middle and high school students.
“UHD saw a real value in the Science Engineering Fair of Houston back in 1985 when we agreed to become the primary sponsor of this major annual event,” said Larry Spears, a UHD chemistry professor and fair director.
“It has provided thousands of local students a challenging environment where they can practice their skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and be recognized for their work,” he said. “SEFH enhances classroom learning in all areas of STEM, it gives teachers incentives to strengthen their programs, and it partners public, private and civic organizations in areas of major importance to the current and future economies of the greater Houston area.”
Students can win awards and scholarships in a Science and Engineering Project Competition, a Science and Engineering Writing Contest and a Technical Poster Design Contest. More than 1,300 students from 140 schools in the 16-county region competed last year making it one of the largest regional science fairs in the country.
Other fair sponsors are the Engineering, Science & Technology Council of Houston, the Greater Houston Partnership, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Each year the fair gives middle and high school students the opportunity to showcase their independent research. More than 1,000 area professionals volunteer their time to judge the projects. Winning students receive scholarships and prizes and move on to a junior competition or the state science fair. Classroom teachers receive incentives to enhance science learning and four grand award winners are eligible to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
The Science and Engineering Fair started in 1960 with 500 participants who showed their projects at the Houston Coliseum. The science writing and poster design category was added in 1987 to encourage students with language and visual arts skills to participate. Fair organizers want to involve as many students as possible in the fair.
“The reasons are as much about a passion for scientific inquiry as they are about the future prosperity of Texas,” Spears said.
According to a Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board report, the state is not producing enough students who graduate with technology-related degrees or degrees that lead to technology-related careers.
“Pre-college programs such as the fair are meant to prepare a technically-skilled workforce for the 21st century, the future teachers who will teach them, and the practitioners and researchers who will develop the next scientific breakthroughs,” Spears said.
Spears has seen the fair grow in size and scope. For example, a new category, “Energy and Transportation,” was added in 2008 and is designed to attract projects in aerospace, alternative fuels, fossil fuel energy, green energy science, vehicle development, and renewable energies, he said.
The new fair category grew from the fair’s association with the International Sustainable World (Engineering, Energy and Environmental) Project (I-SWEEP). Similar to the Science and Engineering Fair’s mission to motivate young people, I-SWEEP also focuses on the planet’s sustainability challenges, and helps future generations grasp these issues in order to accelerate the discovery of solutions for a sustainable world.
Organizers want to ensure the fair’s continued success so this year they increased participation of local school districts, teachers, and students. They also want to attract new sponsors and bring back judges and supporters from the past.
The 2009 Science and Engineering Fair website is hosted by HUNSTEM, the Houston Urban Network for the Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at http://hunstem.uhd.edu/SEFH/.