“Having a science fair at a high school is unfortunately becoming a rarity, and so this is something that needs to be fixed.” That’s Dr. Rachel Richards, an M-A science teacher who is supervising sophomores Maddie Cambell and Anna Quinlan in the creation of an M-A science fair, and a science fair club. When asked about her reasons for taking part in the fair’s creation, Richards replied, “My biggest thing is to excite people about science, both students here at M-A, and families in the community, so that people have an enjoyable time engaging with science.”
Richards, Campbell, and Quinlan— the founders of the fair— have planned the event for February, a month before the San Mateo County STEM Fair in March. At M-A’s fair, unaffiliated parents, teachers, and possibly outside scientists will judge projects according to a rubric used at higher level fairs. The use of the rubric will help students improve their projects and give them a taste of what it is like to take part in a county or state science fair. The M-A Science Fair founders are looking for a way for students to advance to the San Mateo County Office of Education’s STEM Fair, with the help of its director, Doron Markus.
“I went through the process last year with a different science fair and I had no support and no mentors” said Quinlan. “It all worked out in the end but I made a lot of mistakes that could’ve been prevented if I had had someone who knew the process.” Quinlan envisions the club as a place where students can find the guidance that she lacked in her previous science fair experience. “We’re going to have regular meetings, and work on projects in my classroom after school, so that students will have a lot of support,” said Richards about the club. While the details of the club are still up in the air, the founders hope that the club will be able to provide those who join with mentorship and equipment to help them through their experiments.
“Especially in California, there are a lot of resources in the area that some people have access to, which makes it so that some people have better projects,” said Quinlan on her experiences in previous fairs. “You have to have some pretty good connections, and that’s part of what this program aims to do. We want to make it so that it’s accessible to everyone.” The club will allow all students at M-A to take part in the science fair, regardless of their past experience or access to resources.
In the coming years, the founders plan to continue to support the project. When asked about her hopes for the impact of this project on students, Richards replied, “The idea is that when they experience science in the future, because science is all around us and in our lives, that they’re less intimidated by it and more willing to take a crack at it.”
To listen to Richards and Quinlan talk about the project, click below: