This past Saturday March 23, at the 77th annual Western New York Regional Science and Engineering Fair at D'Youville College, Medina Clifford Wise Intermediate School sixth grader Ryder Jones was named the Orleans County Science Champion, and he was awarded a certificate and one hundred dollars.
Jones, along with students from Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, and Wyoming counties, initially entered the STEAM fair competition this past January, which was sponsored by the Genesee Community College's Math/Science Prep STEM Enrichment Program. His project, "The Effect of Music on Mood," involved 68 test subjects: a group of sixth graders in his English class with teacher Kari Webster; a group of Medina High School sophomores, and a group of volunteer test subject adults from his church, St Peter Evangelical Lutheran church in Medina. For the experiment, subjects listened to three songs; after each song, filled out a survey Jones had written which was intended to gauge their mood. Jones learned that his hypothesis (that subjects' mood would be most positively impacted by upbeat classical music) was partially correct: While many did in fact have positive responses to the upbeat classical, even more of the subjects had a positive response to an upbeat pop song selection.
All students who entered the STEAM fair and Regional Competition were required to use the scientific method in their projects: they had to come up with a research question, research and explain the background and past research regarding their topic, and develop a testable hypothesis. Then, they had design the and create a scientifically valid experiment, including tools, method, and procedure; they had to document their data, analyze and interpret the results, and report their conclusions; and they had to summarize every step of the process in a written report. Projects also included a tabletop demonstration showcasing their findings.
After a thorough review of all submitted project reports for its STEAM fair, GCC selected the most promising and exemplary projects, and they offered those select students GCC sponsorship, inviting them to compete at the regional fair at D'Youville College. Over 200 students ranging from grade five to grade twelve competed, The largest of which was the sixth grade, 65 students from every county in Western New York.
The Regional Fair was intensive: after an initial time for set up and for screening to verify safety protocol, only the participants and judges were allowed to remain in the gymnasium. Participants were then interviewed three separate times by three separate judges in consecutive ten minutes blocks. The students were asked a wide range of questions about their experiments, their methods and tools, their data, what they had learned, what they might do differently in a future experiment, and how their projects were applicable in the world today. After two hours of judging, guests and families were allowed back in to view the projects and interact with the students.
To name just a few: some of the younger students' projects ranged from Kylie Conway's "Five Second Rule...Fact or Fiction?" to Alex Pizarro's "The Relationship Between Difficulty and Enjoyment While Playing Video Games" to Arian Zohur's "Is Grey the New Blue?"- an environmental project that tested whether or not (so-called) wastewater from a washing machine and dishwasher could successfully be reused to water plants (answer: Yes! No difference between plants A and B). Older students who won many accolades and awards were "How to Make a Robot Learn Short Term Skills" and Liam Gavin Dell's "Study of the Juul E-Cigarette," as did crowd favorites Sullivan O'Dell's study of the "Vector Mouth Guard to Increase Player Safety" and Ryan Lakamp's "New Generation Highly Portable Solar Oven."
The event concluded with a keynote address from renowned Buffalo architect, Robert Traynham Coles, the selected Distinguished Scientist/Engineer of the annual event, and known most for his award winning design of the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center in Buffalo, New York. He is also known for his work inspiring and encouraging minorities and marginalized persons to seek and join fields such as architecture, and who encourages efforts to seek leadership roles in their communities. Coles wrote in his memoir of his longtime goal to "make this profession [architecture] look more like the society it has to serve."
On Saturday, he told the children to "find something you love, that you really like to do...and pursue it with a passion," regardless if others tell you that you can't. He went on to discuss his trailblazing work throughout his distinguished career. Following the speech, Coles invited questions from the floor. After multiple questions from all over the room, a small child raised his hand. He asked, "What are all those badges you have? Are you a boy scout?" Mr. Coles took it right in stride. "Yes," he said simply. And the crowd roared its approval.
The event concluded with the presentation of awards, which were given in categories by age, by community, and by profession; there were medallions, certificates, and many monetary awards and invitations to National, International, and Corporate Competitions in the field. To learn more about the WNY Regional Science and Engineering Fair, visit http://wnysc.org/about/