US Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center

Volunteer judges help science fair inspire students to pursue STEM

Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville
Published Jan. 22, 2016
John Nevels, a structural engineer with the Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville judges Lydia Fairchild's "How Music Affects Our Bodies" fifth grade science fair project during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20.

John Nevels, a structural engineer with the Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville judges Lydia Fairchild's "How Music Affects Our Bodies" fifth grade science fair project during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20.

Gina Gill, a project manager with the Energy Saving Performance Contract program, bends down to hear Suzanne DeVisser’s explanation of her fifth grade science fair presentation on “Does Iron Metal Always Rust?” during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20. Visser received an Honorable Mention for the science fair’s physical category.

Gina Gill, a project manager with the Energy Saving Performance Contract program, bends down to hear Suzanne DeVisser’s explanation of her fifth grade science fair presentation on “Does Iron Metal Always Rust?” during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20. Visser received an Honorable Mention for the science fair’s physical category.

Juan Pace, a technical manager for the Huntsville Center’s Facilities Repair and Renewal Program, bends down to hear third-grader Lauren Todd’s explanation of how different temperatures affect the growth of crystals during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20.

Juan Pace, a technical manager for the Huntsville Center’s Facilities Repair and Renewal Program, bends down to hear third-grader Lauren Todd’s explanation of how different temperatures affect the growth of crystals during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20.

Carol Elder, Huntsville Center's Interior Design chief, listens as fifth-graders Kirsten Goodenought and Ashlyn Harris explain how saltwater makes gummy bears shrink during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20.

Carol Elder, Huntsville Center's Interior Design chief, listens as fifth-graders Kirsten Goodenought and Ashlyn Harris explain how saltwater makes gummy bears shrink during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20.

Wade Doss, Huntsville Center’s Civil Structures Division chief, gets on Hannah Long’s level as she goes over her third grade science fair project that explains how different substances affect teeth during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20.

Wade Doss, Huntsville Center’s Civil Structures Division chief, gets on Hannah Long’s level as she goes over her third grade science fair project that explains how different substances affect teeth during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20.

Karen Moore, a lead project manager with the Huntsville Center's Energy Division, listens as Fifth-grader Trevor DeMont explains his "Hydrodynamic Boat" presentation during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20. DeMont placed third in the physical category of the school’s science fair and will move forward to the Regional Science Fair competition.

Karen Moore, a lead project manager with the Huntsville Center's Energy Division, listens as Fifth-grader Trevor DeMont explains his "Hydrodynamic Boat" presentation during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20. DeMont placed third in the physical category of the school’s science fair and will move forward to the Regional Science Fair competition.

Steven Pautz, a center closeout manager for Chemical Demilitarization, speaks to Aiden Barnard about his “Refraction of Light” fifth grade science fair project during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20. Barnard placed first in the physical category of the school’s science fair and will move forward to the Regional Science Fair competition.

Steven Pautz, a center closeout manager for Chemical Demilitarization, speaks to Aiden Barnard about his “Refraction of Light” fifth grade science fair project during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20. Barnard placed first in the physical category of the school’s science fair and will move forward to the Regional Science Fair competition.

Michael O’Sullivan, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Huntsville Control Management Branch, judges Franklin Johnson and Mason Hart, fifth graders, on their electric fruit presentation during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20. The students discovered that seven lemons power a .5 volt LED.

Michael O’Sullivan, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Huntsville Control Management Branch, judges Franklin Johnson and Mason Hart, fifth graders, on their electric fruit presentation during the Challenger Elementary School Science Fair Jan. 20. The students discovered that seven lemons power a .5 volt LED.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs are on the rise in the U.S., but according to the Department of Education only 16 percent of high school seniors are interested in becoming STEM professionals.

In an effort to increase student interest in STEM fields Challenger Elementary School held its annual science fair Jan. 20.

Michele Wallace, Challenger Elementary School principal, said the science fair helps students understand the procedures of scientific experiments and research.

“Kids might learn facts and figures during science class but they rarely have enough time to go through a scientific process,” she said. “We wanted to make sure they knew the process of how to think through a problem, create a hypothesis, go through the trials and then present it.”

After 10 weeks of hard work and preparation, students were ready to show their presentations.

Eight volunteers from the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville offered their STEM field expertise to help judge more than 110 science fair projects during the event.

Wade Doss, Huntsville Center’s Civil Structures Division chief, volunteered as a science fair judge to stay up-to-date on how well area school systems are promoting STEM. He said he believes the students are in good hands.

“These are our future leaders,” he said. “I think events like this are great … the intelligence and ability of these kids in the things they are doing right now are impressive.”

Doss said volunteering at events like this shows children how important it is and helps get them interested in STEM.

“It’s important for them to hear from, and get feedback from, engineers and scientist because those are the people who do these things for a living,” he said. “So, hopefully it will inspire them to be an engineer or a scientist one day.”

Fifth-grader Aiden Barnard’s “Study of Light Behavior” project placed first in one of three science fair categories.  

Barnard said the idea for his project came after his dad showed him that after placing a quarter under a glass of water and bending down, you could no longer see the quarter. 

“I asked my dad, ‘Why did this happen?,’ and he told me, ‘Refraction,’” he said. “I knew the science fair was coming up … so, we went online and researched refraction.”

Barnard’s hypothesis was “just because three substances are clear doesn’t mean light behaves the same way” when it passes through a substance.   

Barnard and other fifth-grade students who placed first, second and third will go on to compete in the Regional Science Fair.