The Student News Site of Saratoga High School

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Science fair contestants need internal school support

The Harker School, a well-respected but expensive private school in San Jose, holds a “Research Symposium,” an annual program designed to “showcase the discoveries of Harker’s young scientists and alumni” and “celebrate Silicon Valley’s innovative spirit,” according to the school’s website. Harker students of all grades attend the event, which includes talks by Siemens and Intel ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) competitors as well as student workshops on technical writing, research competitions and internships.

This internal assistance at Harker, whose science department teachers also act as mentors for student research, hugely affects its student participation and success in renowned science fairs like the Siemens and Intel competitions. In 2012, for example, 11 Harker students were Intel semifinalists, while only one SHS student qualified.

Saratoga High, despite being a highly STEM-focused school and one of the best public schools in the nation, lacks Harker’s support system. While some students have experience from years of participating in regional and state science fairs, others who are interested but lack this experience tend to be discouraged, especially since the school offers no official guidance.

Most participants’ projects and research process are closely monitored by parents or mentors, according to sophomore Michelle Xu, who placed fourth in the California State Science Fair last year. Though high school is a time for students to develop independent working skills, having a mentor does not mean that these contestants become wholly reliant on aid; a mentor guides students and exposes them to the research process in the real world of science.

For freshman Amith Galivanche, who attended Redwood Middle School and has participated in science fairs since seventh grade, his middle school science teacher Jason Robertson offered to help him with his project. Robertson checked in with him every now and then and was a source of good advice, Galivanche said.

However, not every student has this kind of direct access to help or even knows about these contest opportunities.

“Our students are so bright and capable of doing well at science fair, and they deserve support [from the school],” said Galivanche, who has competed in the Synopsys Silicon Valley Science and Technology Championship as well as the California State Science Fair.

In addition, those who are unfamiliar with science fair procedures often face difficulties with tight deadlines and overwhelming workloads. For example, the Siemens Competition opens registration on May 1 and requires that students submit a research report up to 18 pages and multiple other forms by the contest deadline of Sept. 30.

According to assistant principal Brian Safine, a class called Advanced Science Research was offered in February of 2013 as a potential class for the 2013-2014 school year. The course was designed to provide support and mentoring for students who wanted to research science topics, he said, and those students would also be able to conduct further research for science fair projects. Sadly, the class was not offered because of a lack of sign-ups.

Since this approach hasn’t worked, an informal program could be set up for students who are interested in science fairs. At the very least, the school should designate an official system or a specific teacher to aid contestants with their projects. Of course, this teacher would deserve to be compensated in the same way that a coach is for the extra time spent helping students outside of the school day.

Though Saratoga High lacks the funds of a private school like Harker, it is capable of offering much more support to prospective participants than it currently does. Considering the significant amount of planning and management involved in the process, one of the top public schools in the nation should provide more help to its science fair participants.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Saratoga Falcon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *