Description of Competitions
April 9, 2016 – Howard County STEM Fair
Description: The Howard County Public School System hosts an annual STEM Fair and Festival which is an exhibition of student and school projects to celebrate achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics within HCPSS. Research projects completed by hundreds of middle and high school students are judged in the morning in a closed session by panels of scientists, engineers, and educators from the region. Then, the STEM Fair is open to the public early afternoon. Afterwards, an awards presentation is held in the auditorium.
Experience/skills gained: I developed my skills to cooperate and resolve problems when the poor organization almost prevented me from displaying during the public session. Luckily, they eventually found the list with my name. Personally, I didn’t think the judging went well. I wasn’t used to the PowerPoint format which fixed the order of my topics instead a board that I could move back and forth. I don’t think I presented it in the most enthusiastic way. The judges said I did a good job at the end, but I honestly don’t know what they really thought. Through presenting at this fair, I practiced using a PowerPoint to discuss my work and improved my skills to engage with the audience (judges). Looking back, I don’t like how the mentored projects were not divided into categories. This creates an unreasonable amount of competition for the best projects. I do need to reconsider whether I go next year. From this experience, I practiced being in uncomfortable situations.
March 19-20, 2016 – Baltimore Science Fair
Description: The Baltimore Science Fair invites all middle and high schools of Baltimore City, and Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Cecil, and Howard Counties to participate in its annual fair. As an incentive, the sponsors arrange for two Grand Prize winners in Division 1 (high school) and their teachers to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The three science fairs I describe here are my three competitions that I participated in this year. The nature of all three competitions is the same. Students present a research project they have been working on to the multiple judges in a competition for monetary awards.
Experience/skills gained: In preparing for the Baltimore Science Fair, I had to create a display board to present my work. I started from scratch using a blank PowerPoint slide and created a well-organized and detailed board. Through this work, I have fine-tuned my Microsoft Office skills as well as my artistic ability in constructing decent illustrations from a complicated research problem. My journey through quantum mechanics and quantum computation has been a challenging and enriching experience that builds the foundation for my future physics path. Along the way, I have broadened my skills in working with LaTeX, Mathematica, and Matlab. Most importantly, I have refined my abilities to find the appropriate resources and self-study, important qualities for any researcher.
May 8-13, 2016 – Intel ISEF
Description: The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. Approximately 1700 high school students from more than 75 countries, regions, and territories are awarded the opportunity to showcase their independent research and compete for approximately $4 million in prizes. Intel ISEF unites top young scientific minds, showcasing their talents on an international stage, where doctoral level scientists review and judge their work.
Experience/skills gained: I had good conversations with the judges and learning from other projects, events, and symposiums there. Many of the judges I talked to weren’t in my field (astronomer, engineer, etc.) so I think they didn’t fully appreciate my project. Although I received much praise, I think I didn’t connect with them very well. Combined with the fact that my results weren’t optimal, it would be hard to make an impression. Fortunately, I gained insight for improving my presentations and looking into the “real world” beyond Maryland. Although this project was not successful for publication, I have learned so much about research and physics to take away from this experience. Ultimately, I’m doing research because of my passion for physics. Not winning some awards or getting into some programs will not stop me from pursuing my goals. As the school year comes to an end, I look forward hopeful and optimistic.