More than 400 students at Oak Hills Elementary School participated in the school’s second STEM Expo Friday.
The four-day science fair event allowed the school’s entire student body, from kindergarten to sixth grade, to ask questions of their choice relating to computers, engineering and design, math, chemistry, physics or life sciences.
“That’s direction science is going. Some kids get excited about the traditional type of science fair where you take something at home you want to study to measure and get an answer,” said PTA event coordinator Tonia Cohen, who is a microbiologist herself and has judged several county science fairs. “Some kids want to create something new and want to create a better design for something that already exists.”
The goal of the science fair, hosted by Oak Hills Educational Foundation and Oak Hills PTA, was to encourage students to engage in scientific investigation and provide them with the opportunity to articulate their process, result and conclusions.
Students participating in the science fair were required to complete background research, execute a project and present their work in the form of a poster at the STEM Expo.
Those in third grade to sixth grade were also evaluated by volunteer judges from the community who interviewed the students about their projects for three days throughout the week.
“There are no parent judges,” Cohen said. “We have volunteers from the community that all have degrees in education, library science or STEM. It’s wonderful people who are willing to donate their time.”
These judges used a rubric to evaluate each student on different measures like student understanding, background research, data results and multiple iterations.
Student projects included a homemade seismograph, an app to remind people to take their medicine and a modified arrow to increase accuracy, among others.
“You can get really inventive with engineering and design,” Cohen said.
During the Expo, students took in front of their posters and answered questions about their projects before watching a slideshow and participating in the school awards ceremony.
This year, the school offered two separate sets of awards, one for traditional science projects and another for engineering projects.
The top three winners in each grade level and in each category were given medals and additional students were given honorable mention ribbons.
Some top-placing projects from the school’s sixth grade class were also eligible to advance to the Los Angeles County Science and Engineering Fair held every year in Pasadena in March.
Through the science fair, Oak Hill teachers and parents hope the projects encouraged the students to develop their speaking skills and explore their interest in science education.
“I’ve heard nothing but positive encouragement… The parents have been very excited about encouraging kids to do an engineering design if they want,” Cohen said. “It [the STEM Expo] will inspire more kids, and those that are more creative-minded, and encourage them to participate.”
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_