Science Fair 2011 Here We Come!

Life is an escalator: You can move forward or backward; you can not remain still.

Patricia Russell-McCloud

Next week our district is doing the judging for the finals of the school wide Science Fair. Each school, elementary, middle and high school did their own science fair with 3 winners at each school, in different categories and grade levels. The winners come to Robarts Arena, over two days, to demonstrate to judges who score them based on different criteria to get 3 winners in each grade level and category.

New Technology Helps Grade Projects Better

Last year was the first year that I provided technology support for the judging. It was also the first year that the district used Blackberries to do the judging. It went quite well after the judges got used to the handheld devices, instead of the pencil and paper method. The Blackberry cuts out a step in the judging process that was a time consumer each year. With the paper method each judge had to sit down at a laptop and input their scores a 2nd time into the judging web page to submit to the database. You can see with that method it took a long time to get all the judging done, especially when each project has to be judged 3 times by different judges to count as a completed judging. It also meant waiting longer to check to see if the projects had been judged the proper amount of times.

With the handheld Blackberry the second input isn’t necessary. The judging is done straight to the score sheet web page and is submitted instantaneously to the database. The district administrative team can then monitor the database in real time to see who is not getting judged and move judges toward those projects to get them completely judged. This also cuts out the time sitting at a laptop doing double entry, while cutting out the lines waiting for a laptop. No more long days for the students and the judges.

Stepping Forward, But Not Forgetting The Past

While we move forward with technology to make our Science Fair the best it can be, we are not forgetting the past. There will still be paper judging forms, a bank of laptops and judges that won’t be quite comfortable with a Blackberry. But, they will have support from a group of district technology support professionals that will help them through the process. You can’t just jump in the pool after your first lesson on how to swim, and the same applies to technology. It takes time to feel comfortable, to have it feel natural and to have the confidence to do it yourself. This year will be even better than last year because we saw things that we could do better, we learned from them and we are growing.

Good luck to all the students that have projects at the District Science Fair!