Sunday, February 19, 2017

2017 Austin Energy Regional Science Fair

For the sixth consecutive year, I judged the middle school and high school exhibits in Behavioral Sciences in the Austin Energy Regional Science Festival. I also judged both sections of elementary school entries.  As always, it was challenging and fascinating. 
Before the show, I walked the event looking for
projects with military applications.
This year, none of the entries in Behavioral Science was advanced to the Best of Show competition. Unlike previous years, none had the best statistical summaries, and none got beyond the Internet for research citations. Nonetheless, many of the 50+ were outstanding. We judges argued over our two rounds of selections to find the best five, three of which were sent on the state level of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
Drones and robots are already
engaged in the battle space.
Synesthesia, Attitudes of Foreigners Toward American Values, the emotional content of colors, how sales personnel influence buyer decisions, the difference in to-go versus in-store serving sizes, judgments of personality types based on eye color, the physiological stresses associated with lying, and gender differences in multitasking were some of the many entries.  Woody Allen famously said that 85% of success is showing up. These kids all acquired special learning and perhaps ineffable experience by carrying out their experiments, recording their results, and presenting their findings.
It gives a new meaning to "Mobile Infantry"
This was reinforced for me the day before the fair when my officemates were puzzled by an assignment to present a broad set of findings over the past year to a large floating assortment of public officials. "You need three-fold presentation boards," I said. "What are those?" they asked. After the science fair, when the tasking was discussed again, our supervisor (who was out of the office earlier) said that he bought them for his son's science fair project.

Where All the Children are Above Average
World Peace Through Massive Retaliation
2014 Austin Energy Science Festival
2016 Austin Energy Science Festival
Monsters of the Id
Teaching Science with Science Fiction

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