This was the third annual fair sponsored by the Livermore Lab and by far the largest. Students, teachers, parents, judges, volunteers and others filled the cavernous space of Building A to see more than 480 separate projects submitted by high school and middle school students from across Alameda County. Elected officials also spending a Sunday at the fair included Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin), State Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, mayors Jerry Thorne of Pleasanton and John Marchand of Livermore, school superintendents Parvin Ahmadi of Pleasanton and Kelly Bowers of Livermore, and Alameda County Board of Education member Joaquin Rivera.
The four grand prize winners who are now eligible to compete in this year's Intel Science Fair in Los Angeles are:
* Amador Valley High School's Janel Jihyeon Lee, for a project titled, "An Enhanced Method for Fusing Multiple Exposure Images for High Dynamic Range Scenes."
* Dublin High School's Kumaran Ratnam, for a project titled, "A Novel Energy Harvesting System with a Piezo Element to Power a Visual Prosthesis System."
* Mission San Jose High School's Vaishnavi Shrivastava, for a project titled, "Progressing Targeted Cancer Therapy and Diagnosis Analyzing the Role of MicroRNA Target Interactions and Expression Signatures of Glioblastoma Progression."
* Mission San Jose High School's Ragu Dara for a project titled, "Achieving Net Gain Nuclear Fusion in Nanocapsules by Coupling Sonoluminescence and Magnetic Confinement."
If the titles of these and the other projects weren't impressive enough, the multiple panels of graphs, diagrams, visuals and working experiments surely were. They ranged from the effect of wastewater on the electricity generated from a microbial fuel cell, by Ivan Man of Valley Christian Middle School, to the differentiation among ethnicities regarding facial characteristics, a presentation by Harshita Kaushal of Foothill High School.
During the year, the Lab provides a forum for stimulating student interest in science and help to educators to fulfill the new Common Core Standards. Grade 6-12 students educated within Alameda County from home school, charter, public, private and parochial schools also are eligible to participate in the annual fair.
The Lab and the Alameda County Science and Engineering Fair are affiliated with the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world's largest pre-college gathering of high school science competition, and the California State Science Fair, which is the state's most elite science competition for middle and high school student projects. The international competition focuses on energy, engineering and environmental projects.
Jim Bono, the Livermore Lab's public affairs director, said the science fair has seen "explosive growth," with 79% of this year's entries being first-time science fair competitors. That tracks the mission of the fair, which is to stimulate interest and passion for science and engineering among students for 6th-12th grade. As such, it plays an important role, encouraging the interaction of students, parents and teachers, building memorable moments and traditions in education.
Countywide participation also allows greater diversity and opportunity for students to experience hands-on science research and the rewards it can bring. Last year, fair organizers worked to bring 30 under-served students and their teachers from San Leandro's Bancroft Middle School Boys & Girls Club to the science fair as observers. To enhance this goal, the Alameda County science fair was selected along with three other California regional science fairs to participate in the Broadcom Junior Varsity program to engage middle school youth in science fairs. The national Broadcom Masters competition caters to the top 10% of middle school research projects from each affiliated fair throughout the country.
With its mission in mind, the Lab and the ACSEF association has set its sights on building upon the accomplishments of the first three years with a goal of increasing participation in the under-represented demographic areas of student participation at its Alameda County Science and Engineering Fair next year.