Nearly 700 students to fill Hilton Coliseum with their science and tech research

Ames High students Jake Schmit and Scott Junck work on a greenhouse experiment.

Ames High School students Jake Schmit and Scott Junck, left to right, work on a greenhouse experiment as part of their research project for the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa. Larger photo. Photo by Kathy Hanson/Ames Community School District.

AMES, Iowa – Across the state, nearly 700 junior high and high school students are polishing presentations, checking data and making last-minute preparations.

It’s time for the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa. And you might want to check it out.

“There is no other opportunity in the state for the general public – and for parents to bring along their younger kids – to see and hear about so many different topics,” said De Anna Tibben, an earth and space science teacher at Ames High School who will be inducted into the state science fair’s hall of fame this week. “People can come out and just talk to these kids about their projects. That would be very empowering for these students.”

The junior high and high school students at this year’s fair will present 558 projects on Thursday and Friday, March 31 and April 1, at Iowa State University’s Hilton Coliseum. Public viewing of high school projects is 2-6 p.m. on Thursday. Public viewing of junior high and award-winning high school projects is 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday. Admission is free.

Tibben has taken students to the state science fair since 2010. This year, about 30 Ames High students will bring 18 projects to the fair.

And yes, she said, they’ll all learn lessons about how science works.

“Science is not something that’s discovered in the lab on the first try,” she said. “These students learn lessons in perseverance. That’s the biggest lesson I see.”

There are other lessons, too: Planning. Executing. Problem-solving. Questioning. Communicating. Networking. Confidence-building.

“It’s amazing how much you can learn – not only about science, but also yourself – when you do a science research project,” Tibben said.

Hundreds of students will fill Hilton Coliseum with their science research projects. They’ll report data and answer questions. They’ll walk judges through their methods and conclusions. They’ll compete for about $60,000 in prizes, awards and scholarships. The very best will win trips to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix and the National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis.

It takes months of organizing and hundreds of volunteers to put on a statewide science fair. But Andrea Spencer, the fair manager for Iowa State Extension and Outreach, said it’s worth all the effort.

“We do it for the students of Iowa,” she said. “That’s what keeps this going. This whole experience is wonderful for our students across the state.”