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Voting And Judging Science Fairs

Nov. 4, 2014
Technology Editor Bill Wong rants about getting out the vote and judges for science fairs.

Are you going to vote Tuesday? I would recommend that you do but statistics show that most people avoid midterm elections. Primaries are worse but presidential elections tend to bring out the voters. Still, it is a fraction of what it should be.

The problem is that even midterms are important. They are probably more important because these tend to be local elections that have direct impact on our daily lives. If social media is any guide, there are a lot more complainers that are not active voters. Votes count and it is one way to get back at all those people calling and putting up commercials from unknown sources.

Another problem that is similar is support for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). In particular, I work with the Mercer Science and Engineering Fair and we need judges. The fair does not work without them. Unfortunately we tend to get the same kind of responses that you hear from people that don't vote. They think that STEM is important but that someone else should be doing something about it. They tend to complain a good bit too.

Our judges do need to take a little more time out than it takes to vote. We run two sessions for our fair in the middle of March at Rider University. One is on Sunday evening and one is on Monday morning. Those doing the Monday session usually have to take off work but we have had enough to make our fair work for a few years. This fair has actually been running almost continuously for over 60 years.

Our needs are not unique. We are affiliated with the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) (Fig. 1) and from what I hear from other fair directors, my observations are similar to theirs.

Figure 1. The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair is affiliated with hundreds of fairs from around the world. The competition is help every year in May.

I bring this issue up here because our judges come from your ranks. They are practicing engineers, scientists and programmers.

Some companies do take this issue to heart. We have corporate sponsors that provide monetary support as well as supporting their employees that are judges at the fair. Still, we have more companies in the area that do not participate.  

So I will be at the polls Tuesday at least for the few minutes it takes to vote. Hopefully you will be there too. Likewise, I'll be at our science fair in March. If you are in the Mercer/Princeton area then I hope to see you there or contact me now if you can lend a hand. Judging student projects is fun and provides feedback to nascent scientist and engineers.

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