AMES, Iowa – Students across Iowa have been busy preparing their exhibits and are finally ready to show them off at the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa, Iowa 4-H’s first state fair of the year.
Nearly 800 students from 71 of Iowa’s junior highs and high schools will present their findings to judges and the public inside Iowa State University’s Hilton Coliseum, on Thursday, March 22, and Friday, March 23.
The fair is free and visitors are encouraged to look over exhibits and talk to students. Public viewing times are 2-6 p.m. on Thursday, March 22, for high school projects and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, March 23, for junior high and the best high school projects.
“Part of the foundation of next-generation science standards is kids doing real science and engineering, which is what 4-H has been doing for more than 100 years,” said Jay Staker of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, chairman of the fair’s board. “We give teachers and mentors a place to do that and do it safely. We want to help our education community accomplish that huge undertaking.”
The fair’s history goes all the way back to 1995 when Harold “Sande” McNabb, a former university professor of plant pathology and forestry, worked with former Iowa State University President Martin Jischke to bring the fair to campus. Today, with support from the university, colleges, Extension and Outreach, and 4-H, Iowa State serves as host to the emerging scientists and engineers. SSTFI embraces the 4-H volunteer model and hundreds of volunteers from across the state will help make the fair a positive learning event for the researchers.
To this day the fair is still thriving. Staker said the fair is about as big as it can be. Several years ago, because of available space, the fair was split into two days, one for junior high students and one for high school students. "With our great numbers this year we will barely have enough room for all the students and their projects. What a great problem to have,” said Staker.
The fair offers major prizes to the students, including trips to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles this May, as well as scholarships and awards worth about $50,000.
“I hope the students develop an appreciation and a love of science, especially research,” said Andrea Spencer, the fair’s manager. “I also want to see them develop the ability to problem solve effectively and communicate clearly – that’s something they can carry with them throughout their lives.”
Photo: 2017 State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa