Unleashing student creativity, achievement, public speaking, and healthy competition
STEM Synergy‘s introduction of Science Fairs continues to demonstrate our active role in helping to shrink the “STEM Divide” between the developed and the developing worlds. As the Science Fair concept spreads throughout the nation, our role continues with coordinating and promoting, as well as bringing in more partners and sponsors, and continual innovating.
The Science Fair, as practiced in Ethiopia
While available resources are limited, Ethiopian children are as curious and as capable as children anywhere in the world. The STEM Synergy role is to provide the means, mentors, and materials to help their nation progress further by introducing programs like a national of network of Science Fairs.
The Ethiopian Science Fair approach may seem more engineering-oriented than traditional Science Fairs of the developed world. Instead of a hypothesis-experiment-conclusion format, the students participating in an Ethiopian Science Fair tend to design and showcase practical solutions to problems they see facing their nation and their African neighbors.
The community-level Science Fair competitions in Ethiopia are open to students in grades 7-12. At this grass-roots level, a student will discuss their project concept with their local mentor. Mentors are always available through our STEM Centers. Moreover, as the STEM momentum is rapidly expanding across the entire nation, increasing numbers of private and public schools have been also holding their own local Science Fairs and providing mentors.
Students who enjoy building electronic circuits might propose a sophisticated circuit design as their Science Fair project
Mentors guide their students from concepts to completed projects. narrow their interested imaginations into something that can be actualized. Depending on the project subject and available materials, the students will run actual experiments, build working models and circuitry, explore biological interactions, or create software solutions. During this long process, students discover real-world challenges not normally encountered through traditional “book-based” learning methods.
Local Science Fairs
The purpose of the local Science Fair is for large communities of students to meet together, share the experience of STEM creativity and skill-building within their community, and equitably compete for awards.
Science Fair volunteer judges will visit every student and their project. Each student is scored along several standardized criteria. The sum of those scores yields the student’s Science Fair score. The Science Fair winner is the student with the largest score. Sometimes the local Science Fair will further segment the winners by gender, or by grade level, or type of Science Fair entry. Segmenting is a community-based approach to be maximally fair to the students.
Gondar city area 9th Grade students’ participating in the 2014 local Gondar-STEM-Center Science Fair
All Science Fair students are awarded an acknowledgement of participation. The winning students proudly receive special commendation, and admiration from their peers, family, and Science Fair judges and guests. Not a winner? Try again next year!
Gondar community parents attending their city’s 2014 local Science Fair awards ceremony at Gondar-STEM-Center
Ethiopian National Science Fair
Winners of the local Science Fair competitions become eligible to compete in the National Science Fair. The national competition is held every year on November 10, coinciding with UNESCO World Science Day. STEM Synergy coordinates the national event with our partners: the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, UNESCO, and others. The Ministry of Education supports the the students’ transportation from their hometown to the National Science Fair venue, which usually is the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences, in Addis Ababa. UNESCO invites foreign diplomats to the event, as well as encourages VIPs to be judges for the National Science Fair.
At the National Science Fair closing ceremonies, a STEM Synergy representative will award prizes (computer laptops and tablets) to the winners. The award ceremony is a prestigious event in Ethiopia, and is covered by national media.
Impact of our Science Fairs program in Ethiopia
Other Useful Information
Categories of Science Fair Projects
- Inquiry-based: The student may start with a question, then follow their hypothesis with experiments, and from their actual experimental results, the student may be able to conclude the answer to their original question. Most common in developed country Science Fairs.
- Expo-themed: The student (or small team) creates a unique project that has a practical purpose, such as a hydraulic mechanical arm, an electronic temperature controller, and a working model of a new farming machine with processes sequenced by a microcontroller.
- Competitive-action: The student creates a project that competes with others, e.g., creating the strongest roadway bridge from a specific list of available materials, or follows a FIRST Vex robotics challenge. We have started to populate this type of competition by incorporating it into our national programs.
How it Happens – the Judging of a Science Fair
An often-overlooked benefit of the local Science Fair event is that large numbers of students learn how to organize their thoughts and explain complexity to to neutral third-party observers. These neutral people are known as Science Fair “judges”. A judge is an honorable volunteer, one of a team of judges who visit the Science Fair’s array of student projects, asking each student some questions about their project. The two-way conversations help each judge to ascertain if the student truly understands their project.
Immediately after walking away from the interview with a student, the science Fair judge will write down their judgement of that particular student’s proficiency, into a scorecard form that lists many standardized aspects of proficiency. Such aspects include project originality, project display clarity, student verbal explanation clarity, project data collection, student engagement, project results, next steps, etc.) It is common for a each proficiency aspect to be rated a number between 0 and 5.
The judges hand their completed scorecard forms to a tabulator, who will add up the proficiency aspects to arrive at a final number representing the student’s Science Fair score. (We welcome as many judges as possible, the purpose being to reduce statistical bias, by averaging a student’s score across many judges.) The highest student score wins the Science Fair.
NOTE : The Science Fairs were created and funded by STEM Synergy’s founder or by the Gelfand Family Charitable Trust, which preceded STEM Synergy. STEM Synergy’s role since 2016 is to coordinate the venues, student participation, student project judging, the media.
A Local Science Fair’s Call-for-Student-Projects
Click to enlarge this 2018 advertisement