Fischell Institute Community Members Judge College Park Academy’s Annual Science Fair

news story image

Two second-year bioengineering Ph.D. students supported middle and high school STEM students as judges at the College Park Academy’s Annual Science Fair on January 12, 2024. 

Darby Steinmana member of Fischell Affiliate Fellow Hannah Zierden’s lab, and Ryan McIlvaine, a member of Fischell Institute Fellow Chris Jewell’s lab, were interested in becoming judges to engage with and encourage the young minds participating in the event.

"I wanted kids to have a positive experience, so it's something they also look forward to in the future," said Steinman. 

"It's enjoyable and rewarding to do stuff like this with students. I remember doing science fair projects when I was a kid,” added McIlvaine. “Plus, all the folks at CP Academy are great!”

The theme of this year’s event was inspired by a quote from Dr. Seuss's The Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” 

"We in the science department have been teaching our students that we are the earth's stewards; we are only renting space here. It is our job to preserve and protect it for future generations," said Arianne Premuzic-McChesney, science fair coordinator and science department chair at the academy. "Unfortunately, up to this point, we, as a species, haven't done a very good job. I relate that we are heading into the reality of WALL-E; we are pretty close if we keep going the way we are. So the students had to figure out how their projects could improve the planet and humankind." 

The students' projects took them in many directions, from prosthetic hands to building sustainable housing to natural, homemade shampoos.

As someone who took part in science fairs growing up, Steinman said it was fantastic to see teachers who are passionate about inspiring the next generation of STEM workers, as well as young students excited to discuss their work. 

"I love working with kids—they always seem to find such creative projects and solutions that I never would have thought of," she said. "It was great talking to the science teachers and judges who shared information about their personal lives and experiences that shaped how they viewed and valued the projects on display." 

McIlvaine was impressed by the creativity and how well the students could explain their projects and answer questions. 

"They talked about both the results of the experiment they did and the significance of what they were studying to the world around them," he said. "You could tell a lot of thought was put into it. Many were discussing what they had already seen in the literature while deciding on a topic.” 

Hearing about the resources, fairs, and events that College Park Academy holds for its students makes Steinman and McIlvaine excited for the opportunities for upcoming generations.

Published March 8, 2024