Twin Cities Regional Science Fair transitions to a virtual format

Previous competition at the Twin Cities Regional Science Fair.

Fair Use from TCRSF

Previous competition at the Twin Cities Regional Science Fair.

Alexandra Cardwell, RubicOnline

The annual Twin Cities Regional Science Fair transitioned to a virtual format, similar to other competitions and activities, like Model United Nations and debate. Due to this transition, preparations have been different for students, instead of preparing to present live to a panel of judges, students are preparing a video, unlike past years.

Junior Jack Hlavka said, “preparations have definitely been different. While I haven’t done a normal science fair, we’ve had plans change a lot.”

Senior Rashmi Raveendran said, “It’s been different because we are submitting a lot of our materials prior to the science fair, for example our presentations, before the event as opposed to doing it live the day of the fair.”

We are submitting a lot of our materials prior to the science fair, for example our presentations, before the event as opposed to doing it live the day of the fair. ”

— Rashmi Raveendran

Among the many areas of differences in this year’s preparations, working in the lab is one of them. “Normally when in person we’d use class time to work and maybe some free periods or after school time,” said Hlavka. But in distance learning, this isn’t possible, and students must come to school to work for a couple of hours. Raveendran said, “It’s made scheduling a bit more difficult because I have to come in on some distance learning days and then take my classes from the [Advanced Science Research] lab while doing work.” Hlavka said, “Even though it was nice to work on campus during distance learning days, it was also pretty inconvenient since during heavy work periods I’d be driving to school during my free periods every day”

As for the virtual format of the science fair, students have been receiving a lot of changing information, so the expectations have shifted a lot. “We originally thought we were just going to have to submit a video of us explaining our posters, but now we have a video of a slideshow, a shorter overview video, and a sort of flyer,” said Hlavka.

Another drawback of the virtual format of the science fair is that students only have one opportunity to explain their projects, so there is a great amount of pressure to make the video engaging and make sure the audience understands everything. “Our projects could be great but if we make a bad video the project won’t even matter,” said Hlavka. One benefit of the video presentation is that students will have more time to perfect their presentations. “I can take my time to get down what I want to say and present it the way I want for the video,” said Raveendran.

We originally thought we were just going to have to submit a video of us explaining our posters, but now we have a video of a slideshow, a shorter overview video, and a sort of flyer”

— Jack Hlavka

The main part of the presentation is the video, students will have the opportunity to answer questions asked by judges. Hlavka said, “I’m really excited about it because I think my process was a lot more interesting than it looks like on paper”

Overall, Hlavka believes there are more drawbacks, despite there being a few advantages, to the virtual format. “It’s an unfortunate situation and I think they are handling it well,” said Hlavka, “but the model just doesn’t translate to online.”

One of the largest parts of this model is the opportunity for interaction with the judges. “The main thing is that judges can’t interact as much with the researchers,” said Raveendran, “we would normally have a display and judges can walk around and ask questions and you actually get to engage with your work, whereas now we just submit videos and wait for results.”

Although a large part of interaction with the judges has been lost, students had the opportunity to have a Q&A session the night of Friday, Feb. 26. Awards and results will be announced on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 1-3:30 p.m. CST.

Update: below are the list of awards received by SPA students.

Naci Konar-Steenberg (Significant zero: the effect of personality questionnaires on identity-relevant choices)- ISEF Finalists, American Psychological Association, Research Papers Advancing to JSHS, State Science Fair.

Levi Mellin, Nikolas Liepins (SPYGLASS: Eye-controlled camera glasses)- ISEF Finalists, 3M Young Inventor Recognition, Research Papers Advancing to JSHS, State Science Fair.

Jack Hlavka (Treatment of Acid Mine Drainage with Desulfovibrio desulfuricans)- ISEF 2nd Alternate, 3M Film and Materials Science, Manufacturing Technology and Engineering, United States Department of Agriculture Research Service, American Meteorological Society, NASA Earth System Science Award, Stockholm Junior Water Prize, Research Papers Advancing to JSHS, State Science Fair.

Elle Chen (The Effects of Storage Temperature and Exogenous Ethylene Exposure on the Ripening Rate, Quality, and Glucose Level of Postharvest Ripened Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)- City of Saint Paul Youth Fund Sponsor Award, Graduate Women in Science Papers, Research Papers Advancing to JSHS, State Science Fair.

Pilar Saavedra-Weis (The Effect of Rising Temperature on the Polystyrene Degradation Rate of the Superworm, Zophobas atratus)- Graduate Women in Science Papers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Agency for International Development, Research Papers Advancing to JSHS.

Gavin Kimmel (Examining the Relationship Between Socioeconomic Status and Soil Macronutrient Levels)- Inspiring Excellence Project, Ricoh Sustainable Development Award, Research Papers Advancing to JSHS, State Science Fair.

Ben Chen (Incorporation of Recycled Plastics In Road Materials)- Inspiring Excellence Project, State Science Fair.

Isabel Medrano (The Impact of Elapsed Burn Time on Restored Prairie Plant Biodiversity and Soil Nutrient Content)- United States Department of Agriculture Research Service, Office of Naval Research, Association of Women Geoscientists, Research Papers Advancing to JSHS, State Science Fair.

Maya Choi (Degradation of Microplastics: The Efficacy of Various Bacteria in Breaking Down Microplastics in the Environment)- MN Chapter of American Fisheries, Stockholm Junior Water Prize, Research Papers Advancing to JSHS, State Science Fair.

Will Anderson (A Comparison of Three Wing Configurations at Different Heights in Ground Effect)- US Air Force, Mu Alpha Theta, Yale Science and Engineering Association Inc., Research Papers Advancing to JSHS, State Science Fair.

Divya Bhargava (No Change? Impact of FDA Warning on the use of Opioids and Benzodiazepines and their effects in Older Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Patients)- Society for In Vitro Biology, Research Papers Advancing to JSHS, State Science Fair.

Maxanne Millerhaller (The In Vitro Digestion of Animal-based Meat versus Plant-based Meat Alternatives)- US Metric Association, Research Papers Advancing to JSHS, State Science Fair.

James Montague (The effect of UVC exposure on germination rate, time until germination and growth rate in radishes (Raphanus sativus))- Research Papers Advancing to JSHS, State Science Fair.

Will Sedo (Exploring the Physiology of D. Geminata)- Research Papers Advancing to JSHS, State Science Fair.

Isabel Toghramadjian (Optimizing photoperiod to improve drought resistance in Arabidopsis thaliana)- Research Papers Advancing to JSHS, State Science Fair.

Rashmi Raveendran (The Effect of Ammonium Nitrate Concentration on Escherichia coli Temperature Resistance)- State Science Fair.