Young scientists will flock to the UO for annual science fair

Girls presenting science project

Kids from across Lane County will fill Willamette Hall with homemade rockets, lasers and futuristic machines on Saturday, March 10, for the 2018 Science and Invention Fair.

The UO’s Science Program to Inspire Creativity and Excellence, also known as SPICE, is staging the event, which will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The participating young scientists are students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The fair is open to the public, who can enjoy free popcorn and try out the science activity tables. It typically draws around 200 visitors and 45-70 projects.

Some of last year’s projects included testing whether peanuts affect the weight of a chicken’s eggs and whether boys and girls respond differently to optical illusions. All projects should be original and follow the scientific method.

“A lot of the science that they do at school is sort of worksheet and fact-oriented, and this is sort of the picture that kids get of what science is about,” said SPICE program coordinator Brandy Todd. “They don’t get a lot of hands-on chances to do what science is really about, which is asking questions about the natural world and designing experiments to try and answer these questions by collecting and analyzing data.”

To help prepare students for the event, UO undergraduate and graduate student volunteers provided local schools with science fair workshops.

“Our goal with this fair in particular is to make it a really easy gateway,” Todd said. “We want to really support the kids and make it easy so that they come one year and go, ‘Oh, that was super fun, that was interesting,’ and they get over any nerves and want to come back again the next year.”

A panel of UO scientists and graduate students will select a first-, second- and third-place place winner from each grade. The winners will receive feedback and awards of ribbons and gift certificates.

This year, the fair will not include middle school students. Sixth- to 12th-grade students will participate in the Central Western Oregon Science Expo, which takes place on March 3 in Gerlinger Hall.

By Sarah Eddy, University Communications