25 March 2008

Promoting Rationality: The Montana Tech Regional Science Fair

Like any science & technology studies scholar, I can be very critical of positivism--defined as blind faith in the Truth and progress of science. Still, I support science as a form of rationality that gives us some understanding about the nature of nature. Without that sort of knowledge, it's difficult to set policy regarding issues such as global warming. Just ask the Bush administration, whose anti-science, conservative, radical-right wing dogmatism has been such a disaster for the environment.

As a way of promoting rationality, I act as "Head Judge" for the senior (9th through 12th grade) science fair hosted each year by the Technical Outreach program at Montana Tech.

This year, the senior fair hosted 68 students from 9 high schools. Senior fair students won 22 medals and 68 special awards. Grand award winners receive an all expense paid trip to compete at the International Science Fair in Atlanta, Georgia.

It takes a village of volunteers. Here is some of the staff at the check-in table:

And here are some students set up and ready to go with their projects:

In the first round, individual judges interview each student. Judges then discuss their rankings and award White, Red, and Blue Ribbons. Everyone receives a T-shirt:

The Blue Ribbon winners go on to second round, where teams of judges interview each student, discuss their rankings, and award Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medals. Here's a team of second round judges at work:

In the third and final round, a team of judges deliberates which students receive the top awards. It's a difficult process, trying to decide the relative quality of very diverse projects in fields such as Computer Science, Biochemistry, Engineering, and Human Behavior. Arguments for and against various projects can be animated and even heated. Here are the judges hard at work in those final moments:

And the Grand Award winners are:
- Amanda Lockwood from Hellgate High School for her project, Molecular Analysis of Heme Uptake Promoter Region of Bartonella Quintana;
- Morielle Stroethoff from Hellgate High School for her project, The Application of the Ranque-Hilsch Vortex Tube in the Separation of Fluids; and
- The team from Hellgate High School of Matt Parker and Max Egenhoff for their project, A GIS Analyses of Land Use in Comparison to the Quantity of Baling Twine in Osprey Nests

Congratulations to the students, teachers, parents, and mentors that make science fair happen. In a nation where many citizens believe the world was created just a few thousand years ago and that global warming is a leftist conspiracy, we need more people who base their beliefs on reason instead of faith.

1 comment:

Editor said...

Yo! I need a T-shirt!