Kevin E. Patterson

Science Fair and Square: Presentation Tips for Young Einsteins (And Their Parents!)

Just suppose…hospital cafeterias can be more germ-ridden than kiddie arcades.  Canine saliva doesn’t kill general bacteria.  The “5 second rule” doesn’t apply.  Sleep deprivation eases PTSD.  Spices could help the food industry’s fight against bacteria-related illness. 
These were just a few of the research findings posited by students in the 2013 Arizona Science and Engineering Fair (April 1-3, 2013), of which Intel Foundation is a Gold sponsor.   
As a two-time returning judge, I reviewed projects in the elementary school category (grades 5-6),  as well as a special project award that crossed student age groups.  I was reminded of the old teaching cliche,  learning more from the students than they did of me. 

While You Were Out: AzSEF judges review projects prior to student presentations

I do, however, have a few presentation tips for those considering submitting their projects in 2014, in particular the youngest scientists (the elementary school category, grades 5-6) and their supportive elders.  My colleagues and I are schooled in variants of the below for our own presentations, so you just might find it useful beyond the fair …

Stand and deliver.
Adults aren’t scary, even when they’re judging your project.  So please do not remain seated.  Make eye contact, and present with confidence.   Rehearse, so you know your subject matter and can field questions.   

Use the Internet and existing research as a starting point.  “Science Buddies” is just the start.  To create something original, something you can truly call your own, try to build on what someone else has done, not duplicate their project.

Form meaningful conclusions.

Mom” is not a sample size.  Many studies at the fair (especially among the elementary school submissions) were inconclusive because of low sample size.   Family members were often test subjects, which is fine as a starting point, but they’re not a basis for meaningful conclusions. How you want to sort depends on your research, but when it comes to sample size, more is more. 

Focus on long-term research. In the end, it boils down to a refrain from AzSEF’s organizational leadership to focus on long-term research, because doing your research six weeks prior to the fair (which is what most students do ) is not enough. 

Get Involved.  Sixty percent of AZSEF judges return, yet with 1,500 participating students, the fair needs more than the 350 judges it had this year. While registration isn’t open yet for 2014, I highly encourage students and adults to participate in this fun and educational activity. 

Next week, Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), May 12-17 comes to my backyard in Phoenix.  More than 500 volunteers for a varierty of general activiites are needed during the week, in daytime and evening shifts.  Learn more about becoming a general volunteer or grand awards judge. 

I’ll be judging.  What can you do to advance education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)?

Learn more about AzSEF

Learn more about Intel ISEF

Kevin E. Patterson

About Kevin E. Patterson

Kevin is a consumer campaign manager in Intel Americas, creating integrated marketing programs for technologies beyond the PC and for techsetter audiences. His campaigns have included broadcast TV, digital signage, and online media. In his 12 years with Intel he has been an enterprise campaign manager, founding an IT community with members in over 160 countries. That community is now known as the Intel IT Center, which earned him an Intel Marketing Excellence Award. He also co-created/piloted a measurement for online advertising which earned a 2011 ARF Ogilvy Award, also now deployed globally. Previously, he worked at marketing agencies for clients such as The World Bank, Lexus, GE, and Ford. He has a Master's Degree in English Lit and is a comic book geek.

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