UTSA plays host as state science fair unfolds in San Antonio

(news) science fair

Over 1,000 budding scientists, engineers, physicians and humanitarians from middle schools and high schools traveled to San Antonio last weekend to compete in the Texas State Science and Engineering Fair (TXSEF) hosted by UTSA.

UTSA has hosted and sponsored this event since 2004, which has helped students showcase their research projects in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“UTSA is an excellent institution that can offer so much, but we are in the shadow of bigger, older, better established colleges and universities,” said Stuart Birnbaum,UTSA associate professor of geological sciences, who is instrumental in organizing the event. “The Science fair is just one way we can identify and recruit top quality students.”

Students came from over 12 regions in the state to present their original research to win prizes in one of the 17 project categories. The three-day event began with students eagerly waiting in line to register on Thursday and Friday. With tape, glue and thumbtacks in hand, students assembled their boards, which sometimes soared up to nine feet high. Students retreated that night to either enjoy the lively city of San Antonio or to prepare for the very long day of interviewing the next morning. Judges piled in Saturday morning to assess these projects, ranging from ‘What Makes Us Eat Healthy? A Research to Promote Healthy Eating Habits’ to ‘Understanding the Role of CCR2 during Inflammation Associated with Metabolic Syndrome using Next Generation Sequence Analysis’.

For over five hours, students enthusiastically stood by their projects in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. They devotedly awaited any judges passing their way that wanting to know about their project, and they had two-minute and five-minute pitches ready to enlighten them.

That evening, middle school students hurried into the ballroom for the final awards ceremony. Sitting with their friends and family, they hoped for good news.

The following morning, high school students awaited the same fate. But their journey involved the possibility of traveling to Pittsburgh for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). More than 1,700 high school students from over 70 countries, regions and territories were awarded the opportunity to showcase their independent research and compete for more than $5 million in prizes. ISEF is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition.

On Saturday morning, students discovered if they earned a spot in this life-changing opportunity. The TXSEF students also receive many special awards from the Air Force, Office of Naval research and National Space Society.

This year, the Grand Prize and Best of Show Award went to Kritika Iyer from Ischool STEM of Lewisville and Grace Ranft-Garcia from STEM Academy San Antonio.