Monday, Dec. 23
Fauquier County’s first regional science and engineering fair received approval from the Society for Science and the Public to affiliate with the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).
The Fauquier County Regional Science & Engineering Fair (FCRegionalSEF), set for March 22, 2014, bypassed the usual one-year operational requirement for science fairs that wish to affiliate with Intel ISEF. The Society for Science and the Public oversees Intel ISEF, and gave the go-ahead to allow Fauquier’s first regional science fair to be a part of the Intel ISEF program in its initial year.
Intel ISEF is the world’s most prestigious high school science competition. Students from over 70 countries compete for over $4 million worth of prizes every year. The Fauquier County regional fair will be able to send one high school winner (or winning team) to the international competition to compete with around 1,600 other students. The winning regional team will get to go with a chaperone to the competition, -expenses-paid. This year’s Intel ISEF will be held in Los Angeles, Calif. in May.
Vineeta Ribeiro, the FCRegionalSEF coordinator and a Warrenton Middle School Math teacher, is very excited that the first regional fair will be able to affiliate with Intel ISEF. In March, when Ribeiro first thought about organizing a Fauquier regional fair, she simply wanted an outlet for Fauquier students to be able to explore their scientific questions.
“I was thinking personally about my own kids at the time. I was thinking that they have no way to go to the state science fair, because our county doesn’t do a regional one,” said Ribeiro.
After realizing this, Ribeiro went to Fauquier County Public School’s science and physical education supervisor, Pam Pulver to see if it would be possible to form a regional fair. Pulver supported the idea, however she wasn’t able to undertake coordinating a fair for the upcoming year, since she was already charged with replacing the entire county’s science textbooks. Ribeiro was happy to take on the project.
According to Pulver, Ribeiro has done an exceptional job in coordinating the regional fair. “I think Vineeta is doing such a great job. I think the whole county is excited. People in the community are very interested in it,” said Pulver.
Ribeiro was able to tap into support from community members who were interested in helping advance Fauquier County’s school science programs. Dr. David Collins, CEO of Learning Tree International, was considering contributing to Fauquier County school’s technology programs around the same time that Ribeiro approached him with her regional science fair plan. Around the same time, Collins began his company’s nonprofit organization, Sharp Science Students Foundation (SSSF), which focuses on encouraging students interested in science and technological fields. Through the SSSF, Collins pledged a $25,000 grant towards the start up of the regional fair to be used over the course of the first two years.
Linda and John Suter are also contributing to the cause. Linda Suter has been a long-time supporter of Fauquier County school’s science and technology programs. She offers an annual scholarship for a promising female Fauquier County student to attend a summer engineering camp at Widener University. The Suters donated funds to add to the FCRegionalSEF cash prizes. They also funded a recent contest held in which students from all age groups in Fauquier County schools competed to craft FCRegionalSEF’s new official logo.
Linda Suter is happy to see FCRegionalSEF come to fruition up against financial and regional odds.
“It’s a small rural community and it’s challenging to have a regional science fair in many aspects. The varied population and the available technologies make it challenging. Not everybody in Fauquier County can even get Internet,” said Suter.
Suter went on to say that she is proud that the community as a whole has shown a lot of support for the new regional fair. “The support that the community is putting forth is wonderful. Everyone is really stepping forward and advocating for this. It’s truly a grassroots effort to make this happen. This will really be good for the county.”
Ribeiro also received help from Pulver's contact, Dr. Jason Calhoun, director of the Prince William-Manassas Regional Science Fair. The Prince William-Manassas fair has been established since the 1970’s and Calhoun was well equipped with advice and resources to give to Ribeiro about what a regional fair entails. Calhoun contributed all of their science fair documents to be adapted and used for Fauquier County.
Fauquier County will be the twelfth region in Virginia to join the state’s science and engineering fair program. The already established regional science fairs include Metro Richmond, Fairfax County, Central Virginia, Western Virginia, Prince William-Manassas, Shenandoah Valley, Virginia Piedmont, Blue Ridge Highlands, Loudoun County, Northern Virginia, and Tidewater.
Each regional science fair sends its winning high school level students to the Virginia State Science and Engineering Fair. The state level winners then go on to the Intel ISEF global competition.
FCRegionalSEF will have varying cash prizes for the winning students. For high school level winners first place is a $1,500 prize, second place is a $750 prize, third place wins $500, and fourth place wins an honorable mention and a $250 prize. At the middle school level first place wins $600, second $400, third $300, and fourth place receives an honorable mention and $100.
Students from Fauquier County public schools, private schools, and those that are home schooled will all be able to compete in FCRegionalSEF. Participation in the regional science fair is completely voluntary, encouraging students who truly want to pursue scientific and engineering research to do so. According to Ribeiro, the regional fair is meant to be a fun way for students to engage in scientific exploration. For more information, visit http://www.FauquierScienceFair.com