DCPS Students Take Top Prizes in a Challenging DC STEM Fair 

Aspiring scientists showcase their research skills in 16 categories covering everything from microbiology to astronomy


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Photo by Fred Lewis
Stuart-Hobson Middle School eighth-grader Jamilla Spears presents her project, “Got Fleece?” before a panel of judges at the DC STEM Fair held March 24 at Wilson High School.
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Photo by Fred Lewis
Jamilla Spears, an eight-grader at Stuart-Hobson Middle School, outlines the methodology she used for her DC STEM Fair project, “Got Fleece?”
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Photo by Fred Lewis
Isaac Williams, 12, a sixth-grader at Brookland Education Campus @ Bunker Hill, explains his science project on sleep deprivation for judges at the DC STEM Fair held March 24 at Wilson High School.
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Photo by Fred Lewis
Isaac Williams, a sixth-grader at Brookland Education Campus @ Bunker Hill, outlines the methodology he used for his DC STEM Fair project on sleep deprivation.
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Photo by Fred Lewis
Community organizations with a focus related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers and interests interact with students in the STEM Expo at the DC STEM Fair held March 24 at Wilson High School.
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Photo by Fred Lewis
Community organizations, including industry partners, nonprofits, local museums, higher education institutions, federal agencies and military partners, interact with students in the STEM Expo at the DC STEM Fair held March 24 at Wilson High School.
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Photo by Fred Lewis
Community organizations, including industry partners, nonprofits, local museums, higher education institutions, federal agencies and military partners, interact with students in the STEM Expo at the DC STEM Fair held March 24 at Wilson High School.

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Stuart-Hobson Middle School eighth-grader Jamilla Spears entered the classroom on the third floor of Wilson High School with her DC STEM Fair science project and a warm smile masking a bundle of nerves.

She had presented her project before, but not in front of a panel of experts.

“It was kind of nerve-wracking – you have at least seven people staring at you the whole time,” Spears said of the panel of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) professionals on hand to judge her project and ask questions about her research. “I think I overcame it. I was honest.”

Spears was one of more than 240 students in grades 6-12 from 37 schools throughout the District to submit a project for the DC STEM Fair, held March 24 at Wilson High School. More than 100 judges and more than 60 volunteers from a variety STEM professions and backgrounds were on hand to interact with students and evaluate projects.

District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) students excelled in the fair, taking first place in 11 of 16 categories at the junior division (grades 6-8) – including the grand prize – and nine of 16 categories at the senior division (grades 9-12) – including the grand prize. 

View STEM Fair results by division

Spears’ project, “Got Fleece?” which rated a variety of fabrics for their ability to keep things hot and cold, won her a spot at the DC STEM Fair.

After outlining her hypothesis, methodology and conclusions, Spears faced a series of thoughtful questions from judges that helped the panel rate the project. The questions also spurred deeper thought on different approaches to the research as well as practical applications for student research.

“I wasn’t expecting that many judges,” Spears said, “but I was expecting those questions.”

In its 66th year, the fair give DC Public Schools, public charter, private, parochial and homeschooled students in grades 6-12 the opportunity to showcase their research skills in 16 categories that cover everything from microbiology to astronomy.

This year, DCPS has taken back ownership of the fair, re-branding this school year’s competition as the DC STEM Fair. The DCPS Office of STEM Initiatives sees the fair as a strategic priority for our students.

A key component of the STEM vision for DCPS is to increase both achievement and engagement in STEM subjects. Participation in competitions, such as the DC STEM Fair, and after-school experiences will help accomplish this goal. Of the 37 schools that participated, 24 were DC Public Schools.

Last year’s science fair (DC Science and Engineering Fair – DCSEF) was open to students in grades 3-12. This year, the DC STEM Fair was open only to students in grades 6- 12, with a separate elementary school science event tentatively planned for May 19, 2012, for students in grades 3-5.

Isaac Williams, 12, a sixth-grader at Brookland Education Campus @ Bunker Hill, used video to record the effects of sleep deprivation on the human subjects of his science experiment that asked, “How does sleep deprivation affect the human mind, body and behavior?”

Williams thought sleep deprivation would cause his subject pain, hallucinations, irritability and exhaustion. His subject, a family member, stayed awake for more than 30 hours so Williams could record his observations.

“In conclusion, my hypothesis was partially correct,” Williams said. “I observed the subject as she experienced body aches, exhaustion and irritability. … She did not experience hallucinations. I observed her pulse elevate when she was irritated and in pain. I also observed her memory lapse when she was exhausted.”

Williams, who wants to work in health care or forensic science, said the judges asked interesting questions that he hadn’t considered.

“It makes me think deeper about how to make the experiment better if I did it again,” Williams said. 

Inside DCPS Highlights.


           

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