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Science Fair Incubates Critical Thinkers

Senior Swathi Srinivasan won the grand prize at Northeast Ohio Science and Engineering Fair (NEOSEF) and will be competing at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) this May in Los Angeles. Srinivasan’s project was to create a practical and efficient infant warmer for premature infants, especially those in impoverished countries.

Freshman Priyanka Shrestha won second place in the Math and Computer Science division and won five additional sponsor awards. Photo by Prerna Mukherjee.

Freshman Priyanka Shrestha won second place in the Math and Computer Science division and won five additional sponsor awards. Photo by Prerna Mukherjee.

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The Beachwood Science Fair was held on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 28 in the BHS community room.

Dr. Stephen Haynesworth, the Director of the science fair, is an Associate Professor at Case Western Reserve University in the Department of Biology. He is also a Beachwood parent.

“About four years ago, I started the Science and Engineering Fair club,” Haynesworth said. “It’s open to students from 7th grade to 12th grade, and the purpose is to expose students to how professional scientists do science.”

In order to prepare for the Science Fair, students began working on their projects in September, while getting feedback from other participants.

“The process of developing a project is both an individual endeavor and a group endeavor,” Haynesworth said. “Every Tuesday we come together, and a few people present what they’re doing… Once they finish presenting, everyone else in the groups critiques, and so that process teaches the students actually how science is done, teaching them to think critically.”

Freshman Priyanka Shrestha’s project revolved around computer science and the security of passwords.

“My research question is: How secure are your passwords?” Shrestha explained. “…and [I considered] more in-depth [research such as]…. [if] the password length makes the password more secure, or the password complexity.”

Senior Ankita Prasad’s project involved receptors and their function on cardiac cells.

The Beachwood Science Fair was not a competition; it was an event that gave students a chance to show their work to the public. However, on March 6, select students presented their projects in the Northeastern Ohio Science and Engineering Fair (NEOSEF), which is competitive.

Prasad enjoyed participating in the Beachwood Science Fair, and she also had a good experience at NEOSEF.

“I think [Science Fair is] fun, I think it’s a really great way for kids to express their scientific interest…[and NEOSEF] was a really fun experience,” she said.

“We do the science fair at several different levels…NEOSEF allows every middle school to bring ten students and allows every high school to bring twelve students,” Haynesworth said. “[At] NEOSEF, the students compete in different categories. There’s biology, chemistry, environmental science, behavorial science, physics, earth science, space science  and engineering.”

The process of developing a project is both an individual endeavor and a group endeavor. Every Tuesday we come together, and a few people present what they’re doing… Once they finish presenting, everyone else in the groups critiques, and so that process teaches the students actually how science is done, teaching them to think critically.”

— Beachwood Science Fair Director Dr. Stephen Haynesworth

Next year Haynesworth plans to make Beachwood’s science fair competitive as well.

“Starting next year, I will start to have competitions in each category,” Haynesworth said. “I want to stretch the students a little bit to venture out and try to do some other categories.”

Haynesworth added that before this year’s Beachwood Science Fair and NEOSEF, students also participated in the Judges’ Fair.

“The purpose of that fair was to identify the students who would be selected to go on to NEOSEF… [and] to judge the students’ projects at that fair, we had students from Case Western Reserve.”

At NEOSEF, Awards were given out as honorable mention, third place and second place with one grand prize winner from each category.

Senior Swathi Srinivasan won the grand prize at NEOSEF and will be going to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) this May in Los Angeles. Srinivasan’s project was to create a practical and efficient infant warmer for premature infants, especially those in impoverished countries.

“This is a huge problem worldwide, and it… has expensive solutions, like incubators,” Srinivasan said. “But the majority of people in the majority of countries can’t afford something like that, so I wanted to create something that was efficient in terms of [cost] and [energy], but also portable, reusable and safe.”

Prasad and Shrestha also participated in NEOSEF. Shrestha won second place in the Math/Computer Science category and five additional sponsor awards.

Along with Srinivasan and Shrestha, high school students Timothy Ordillas, Gal Pinhasi, Jing-Jing Shen, Sidhar Uppalapati, Ankita Prasad, and Swathi Srinivasan attended NEOSEF, and middle school students Jamie Park, Neha Chellu, Lauren Clar, Somin Jung, Achintya Kaw, Arielle Keselman, Vivien Marmerstein, Sanjana Murthy, Yoav Pinhasi and Peter Soprunov went as well.

“I would recommend science fair to any student who is interested in an aspect of science…if you don’t have the opportunity to go [into depth] in class, you can really delve into projects in science fair…” Shrestha said.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Prasad said. “If you’re interested in science, you should do it because it’s a way to get yourself out there [and] meet people who are in the same field as you.”

“It… gives the students the opportunity to do things for themselves [and] to actually take the initiative to start a project,” Srinivasan said. “It’s also a lot of fun… [and you]…  get to see where science and communication meet.”

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Science Fair Incubates Critical Thinkers