Judging by the numbers...
Judging by the numbers, the 2010 SCI-TECH Exposition was a huge success. This year's scienc fair, the theme From Imagination to Reality," saw a record number of exhibits entered in the competition. The event, coordinated by the Education for Tomorrow Alliance (EfTA), spans a couple of weeks and includes both junior and senior high schools in the Conroe Independent School District, as well as the private schools the same geographical area. The exposition not only includes science experiments, but a technical writing category and a robotics contest. It required over 450 judges for the junior high school segment of the fair alone, which took place Friday night at Lone Star College Montgomery Campus. The Huntsman Corporation, a perennial sponsor for this and other EfTA programs, also provided two dozen judges for the competition. The judges' evening included an orientation, dinner which was provided by Sweet Tomatoes, the judging of the science experiments, and then the final deliberation by the judging teams to select the winners.
Being among the 450 who decided to test their brain power against the junior high competitors, I was up to the challenge. The judges select three categories that they have a foundation or interest in. I've been judging science fairs for a couple of decades, this one in Montgomery County for at least five. Based on my undergraduate and post graduate degrees, I usually select the categories of Engineering, Behavioral Science, and Earth Science. It's eclectic, but I had my reasons. Knowing that they were probably going to be short-handed on judges, I told them I was flexible and to just put me where they needed me. I was given the 8th grade Environmental category and figured no problem, a few recycling projectsit should be interesting. No, it was hard! I didn't know I would be matching wits with budding chemists! Avoiding chemistry in school like the plaque, I was definitely out of my league. I just kept saying to myself, You don't have to know what they're talking about, just keep your best poker face and act like you do know." After fifteen projects I was glass-eyed; the coffee in the hospitality room snapped me back into reality. Sheryl Sitts, the Manager of Communications and Development for EfTA, was there greeting the judges, and when she asked me if I was smarter than an 8th grader, I emphatically answered No! But I'm smart enough to know how to fake it."
The judges were treated to coffee and dessert in the hospitality room sponsored by the Montgomery County Association of Business Women (MCABW). So the team I was on discussed the projects of the budding environmental scientists while we munched on cookies. It's amazing how a cookie can be a comfort food; it's the security blanket of the food chain. Fortunately most of the judging team knew what the students were talking about better than I, and were in agreement on the winners. Who said you can't get six people to agree on anything? The winners now advance to the Greater Houston Science Fair where they compete for the opportunity to advance to the state competition. Knowing that each year the students raise the bar, will I judge again next year? Absolutely! I learn something new every year. I don't want to regress to the point that I'm not smarter than a 5th grader. For more information about the SCI-TECH Exposition and other EfTA programs go to www.efta-us.org