Nearly 700 school students to show off their research at State Science and Technology Fair

AMES, Iowa – Three southeast Iowa sisters are making another hall-of-fame effort at this year’s State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa.

They’re bringing more than 100 students to the science fair in Ames. They’re sharing their enthusiasm for science fairs and the lessons they teach. They’re passing on their own experience as successful science fair competitors. And they’re even preparing for the induction of all three into the state science fair’s hall of fame.

Science sisters

The science sisters, left to right: Alicia Schiller, Arie Schiller and Amanda Kite. Contributed photo.

Meet Alicia Schiller, Amanda Kite and Arie Schiller. They’ll be all over this year’s fair April 4-5 at Iowa State University’s Hilton Coliseum.

The fair will feature 660 sixth graders through high school seniors from all over the state. The students will set up displays describing 510 research projects. And they’ll compete for more than $70,000 in prizes and scholarships.

Public hours for this year’s fair are 5 to 7 p.m. April 4; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 5 for junior high exhibits; and 2:30 to 4 p.m. April 5 for senior high exhibits. The award ceremony at 5 p.m. April 5 is also open to the public.

Alicia, Amanda and Arie – whose father, Ernest Schiller, taught them science at Central Lee High School in Donnellson – are some of the biggest fans of science and science fairs you’re ever going to meet.

“I love to see the students and how happy they are when they’re with their projects,” said Amanda, who teaches life and earth science at Van Buren Middle School in Keosauqua. “They light up when they do this.”

And so she’s bringing 48 students to the state science fair.

“It’s a very stressful time of the year,” she said, “but it’s worth it.”

Arie, who is bringing 26 students from Keokuk Middle School, agrees all the teaching, advising and organizing it takes to bring students and projects to the state science fair is a worthy investment.

“It’s just for the kids to get that experience of taking and presenting their research to people who are interested,” she said. “Students get to see what students are doing across the state. And the fact that kids get to feel like scientists for a day and a half is just awesome.”

It’s real science these students are presenting to judges.

Several of Alicia’s students from Central Lee High School, for example, have been studying how algae or bacteria could be used to clean up waste oil before it pollutes groundwater. Another student is writing computer code that can correct software errors.

“The kids learn so much from this process,” said Alicia, who took her father’s job when he retired from the classroom and will bring 28 students to the fair. “Not all of the kids can win. But they all learn to start with a plan and then implement that plan. Science fair also helps with problem solving, communication and people skills – skills students need to know on the job and to be more marketable and productive.”

And what about a sibling rivalry? Are the three sisters and their students out to beat each other?

The sisters say they and their students are like one big, science-learning team.

“The ultimate goal,” said Alicia, “is to have our students embrace science and be successful.”

The annual state science fair is directed by Andrea Spencer, an Iowa State Extension and Outreach program specialist. Iowa State is the host of the fair. Major sponsors include the Iowa Biotechnology Association, the Iowa Energy Center, the Iowa Space Grant Consortium and the Monsanto Fund.