by Bryan Lindenberger

Chapel Hill Middle School students shined at this year’s West Georgia Regional Science and Engineering Fair, earning both grand and reserve grand prizes.

Benjamin Jenkins seated at the science fair lobby in a full beard and a kilt

Hosted by the University of West Georgia, the 19th annual fair brought nearly 60 student presentations from 15 regional schools to compete. Judged by volunteers, the highest scoring projects compete at state finals before potentially competing internationally in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Isabella Naile, a seventh grader, earned the grand prize for her presentation “Photocatalytic Water: Treatment for Developing Countries.” Andrea Torres-Wilcken earned the reserve grand prize for her project, a system devised to maintain healthy fish in their aquariums during time away called “Auto-Aquarium.”
 
Both Naile and Torres-Wilcken were awarded high-quality reflector telescopes.
 
All participants made a great achievement by getting as far as the regional competition, having earned their way through school and county fairs. 

Isabella Naile standing with Ben Jenkins beside her prize, a Cassegrain telescope.

Furthermore, students gained first-hand experience in skills such as presentation, construction and, of course, a more rigorous approach to analysis and research methodology.
 
“For a lot of these kids, this is their first foray into scientific method,” says Benjamin Jenkins, senior lab coordinator for the UWG Department of Physics as well as director of the fair. 

Projects ran the gamut, including comparison of consumer goods such as toothpaste and battery brands, and experiments in robotics, electronics, animal behavior, and ecology.
 
The fair itself was not without its own technological advances. In previous years, judges depended on a pencil and paper rubric to assess projects. With a variety of criteria such as data collection, analysis, quality of research question, presentation and more, the process could be cumbersome.

Andrea Torres-Wilcken standing with Ben Jenkins beside her prize, a Cassegrain telescope. 
This year, thanks to a donation from the UWG College of Science and Mathematics, judges used a simple and potentially more accurate mobile app developed with no additional fee for students. 

“We are very happy we are able to keep our entry fee quite low, especially compared to other regional science and engineering fairs,” says Jenkins.
 
Assistant directors Dr. Stacey Britton of the UWG College of Education and Megan Mayercik of the UWG Department of Chemistry contributed additional assistance in making the science and engineering fair a success.

Posted on March 1, 2018