“Look around for problems we face every day and then try to solve them.”
That is Rotary Central Cayman Islands President William Inniss’s recommendation to students interested in entering the 13th Annual Dr. Bill Hrudey Science Fair that will take place on April 27 at the Camana Bay Arts & Recreation Centre.
Students can enter projects in one of four categories at the fair: life science, including microbiology, botany or zoology; earth science, including environment, weather astronomy and ecology; physics, chemistry, and computer science; and food and health.
Each year, volunteers versed in the fields of science and engineering have the laborious, but rewarding, task of judging the students’ projects.
“It takes about 20 minutes to fully assess each project,“ says Rotary’s Central’s Paul Keeble, an attorney with Hampson and Company and organiser of the science fair judges. “They work in teams of four and the final results are tabulated by the judges’ average scores.”
Scores are given based on a students’ application of the scientific method of problem solving. The method involves planning, careful investigation, collection of data and a sensible conclusion.
“The scientific method of problem solving should be demonstrated in their work,” says Inniss. “It could be a project as simple as figuring out how to feed my cat at a certain time.”
Judges assess a project by using a scoring sheet that is based on a template provided by Science Fair Central, which is a collaboration between Discovery Education and Home Depot in the United States. The sheet breaks down the scientific method into 10 scoring sections that outline the requirements for a successful science project.
“The scoring sheet is standardised, which helps ensure equal scoring across the board,” says Jane Haakonsson, the Department of Environment’s research officer and four-time science fair judge. “It also helps the students to understand and prepare for the different components of solid scientific study.”
One notable difference between the Science Fair Central score sheet and that of Rotary Central is Rotary’s additional criteria for an oral presentation and interview.
“Some of these young scientists are so confident, enthusiastic and motivated in their presentations, it’s compelling and it needs to be recognised,” says Keeble of the oral presentation component. “They may not check all of the boxes for the scientific method, but there needed to be some recognition of the quality and delivery of their presentation.”
The scoring sheet and project criteria are available on the Rotary Central website.
Solve a Problem
Enthusiasm and curiosity play a major role in what project students decide to research and present on. Their desire to invent and investigate results in compelling hypotheses and discoveries.
Successful students in previous years took the science fair as an opportunity to be original and creative, while aiming to solve issues we face locally and internationally.
A home-made security alarm to help protect your family and a magnet that cleans up oil spills to save the environment are examples of winning projects the fair saw in recent years.
“In a past year a student discovered that oregano is the best herb to get rid of iguanas in your backyard,” says Inniss. “That’s the type of thing that judges love because [students] are solving something that is important.”
The Most Innovative Award is an additional prize students have an opportunity to win. Creative solutions to existing issues are what Sacha Tibbetts, Caribbean Utilities Company’s vice president of customer service and technology, looks for as a judge when recommending projects for this award.
“I’m looking for a creative solution to a real-world problem using a science-based hypothesis rather than a test just to illustrate a known scientific phenomenon,” he says.
“The Cayman Islands has some terrific opportunities for students interested in entering careers in science,” says Walter Mustin, Cayman Turtle Centre’s chief research and conservation officer and veteran science fair judge.
“I want to help spread the word not just to our youth, but also to adults who are willing to mentor and support our young scientists,” he says.
He encourages students to attend the next science fair and share in the excitement that comes from solving meaningful questions and discovering the wonders of science.