Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Parts of science fair may go up in smoke

Guest Writer
Guest Opinion


The good news is that about 1,300 science projects by southern Arizona students from kindergarten through high school will be displayed March 16-20.

The bad news is that after more than 50 years, the Southern Arizona Regional Science & Engineering Fair is in jeopardy.

SARSEF’s largest contributors have reduced and even eliminated giving this year.

With a shortfall of more than $50,000 of the fair’s $130,000 cost, all reserves likely will have to be used from the fair’s fundraising SciEnTeK-12 Foundation.

We may have to reduce awards to students, take fewer students to the International Science and Engineering Fair this year and even eliminate the K-5 competition next year.

Yet the fair is important to many, many area youngsters.

About 100,000 students are involved in local school fairs, and the 1,300 projects selected for SARSEF represent around 3,500 students.

As a teacher, I have sent hundreds of students to the regional science fair. It changes their lives.

They metamorphose from idle observers to engaged, enthused young scientists.

My involvement began in 1995 when SARSEF was held in Bear Down Gym at the University of Arizona, with 25 high school projects among the few hundred total.

Last year, nearly 100 of the 1,300 projects were high school entries. The quality of those projects also increased.

SARSEF is one of the most competitive regional fairs. Every year, we send two individuals and one team to compete against more than 1,500 entrants from at least 50 countries in the International Science and Engineering Fair.

We consistently come back with top awards.

Amid the many successes and positive effects on students’ lives, the thought of losing SARSEF is profoundly upsetting.

What would be the consequences?

The challenge and rewards of doing a science fair project in elementary or middle school have given many students their initiative to do fun research.

The buzzwords in science education – “hands-on learning” and “inquiry-based learning” – epitomize the experience of doing a science fair project.

Far fewer students would experience inquiry-based projects if there were no SARSEF for K-5 or K-8.

And if we do not interest more students in science- and technology-based careers, where will we get our work force?

Science fair students are economic development engines – our future doctors, engineers, computer scientists, architects, environmental scientists, research biologists, chemists, entrepreneurs and science teachers.

Our world is more and more dependent on science- and engineering-based technology. But our energy, environmental and medical challenges cannot be met without creative, energized students who understand the process of science and innovation and have the confidence and determination to pursue science and technology careers.

Yes, some students will enter these fields without science-fair experience. But they will be far fewer, and many talented individuals will miss the calling if not exposed to the gratification inherent in science.

In our fast-paced society, the opportunity to spend time observing natural phenomena and considering the dynamics of a system outside of our own inner worlds is rare.

But this is the essence of science.

The scientific perspective affords a fascinating and humbling perspective on the universe. Participation in science fair provides the framework for engaging our young people in this very natural and very human pursuit.

It is our only public venue for highlighting and celebrating the incredible scientific talent of the youth of southern Arizona. Please help to ensure its future.

Margaret H. Wilch teaches honors research methods and biotechnology at Tucson High Magnet School and serves on the board of the SciEnTeK-12 Foundation.

The challenge and rewards of doing a science fair project in elementary or middle school have given many students their initiative to do fun research.

Our Digital Archive

This blog page archives the entire digital archive of the Tucson Citizen from 1993 to 2009. It was gleaned from a database that was not intended to be displayed as a public web archive. Therefore, some of the text in some stories displays a little oddly. Also, this database did not contain any links to photos, so though the archive contains numerous captions for photos, there are no links to any of those photos.

There are more than 230,000 articles in this archive.

In TucsonCitizen.com Morgue, Part 1, we have preserved the Tucson Citizen newspaper's web archive from 2006 to 2009. To view those stories (all of which are duplicated here) go to Morgue Part 1

Search site | Terms of service