FORT WAYNE – Home-schooled sixth-grader Jonas Anderson, 12, felt pretty confident about his science project and by the end of public display time he was experienced in explaining it to groups of people who huddled around his board to listen.
Anderson was among a couple hundred students who participated in the 58th Northeast Indiana Regional Science and Engineering Fair on Saturday at IPFW.
He was hopeful he would walk away with an award and maybe a spot at the Hoosier State Science Fair on April 6 in Indianapolis for his engineering project. He stood by his project during public display time and explained how he experimented with building a stirling engine, a heat engine that runs on the cycling of contracted and expanded air that’s been heated and cooled.
It was a very time-consuming project, he said.
Students in grades kindergarten through 12 exhibited their projects in the areas of chemistry, animal science, physics, astronomy, and medicine and health.
Judges were looking for students who applied the scientific method, proposed a valid hypothesis and tested that hypothesis, said Eric Tippmann, the lead judge for Saturday’s fair and a chemistry professor at IPFW.
Tippmann said he volunteered for the lead judge post this year because he realizes the importance of fostering students’ enthusiasm for science.
You need to grow your own crop of students to do the research we design, he said.
Cassandra Smith, 7, is a second-grade student at St. Charles Borromeo School who also participated in the fair. She was the only student from her grade to advance to the regional fair for her project that examined how well plants grow with different liquids.
I knew I did well, but I didn’t know I did this well, she said of her excitement about advancing.
Cassandra said the day was exciting and that she was even able to make a new friend whose project was set up right next to hers.
Jonas said his project had been visited seven or eight times by judges, which he hoped increased his chances of advancing.
Tippmann said judges are trained to offer encouragement and turn faults into learning exercises for students.
We want them to walk away feeling engaged in this bigger idea of science, he said. We want them to feel included, not judged.
He said the fair sees a drop in participation when students enter middle school. He hopes to help improve participation in the upper grades in the coming years.