Training future scientists in the Science Society
By Tarini Kadambi and Jia Cheng Shen, Grade 12 students, Science Society, East Campus
17 November 2021
The Science Society on East Campus had an aim of fostering a spirit of scientific inquiry and encouraging interest in the STEM fields among the student community. In 2018, building upon this goal, we decided to organise the first annual science fair, open to all high school students on East campus. We wanted to encourage students to work collaboratively in planning a long-term scientific investigation, whether theoretical or practical, on a topic of their interest. The first science fair was cozy and small, with 11 projects presented in the Science Pod by a couple dozen passionate students from our society along with the Astronomy Club and STEM Club. Topics spanned the fields of science, from medicine to artificial intelligence and projects ranged from a sustainable alternative to lithium ion-batteries to a cosmic calendar of the universe.
This year we saw a huge increase in student interest to participate in the fair, with the number of groups participating tripling from previous years to include 29 projects with nearly 100 students involved. The student interest and enthusiasm in the fair was extremely exciting, however, COVID-19 restrictions also meant that we faced challenges to ensure that all students could present with their groups. To ensure that all students had the opportunity to share their individual scientific interests with the broader school community and be judged fairly on their project, we finally decided the best way to do it was to have a mixture of virtual and in-person presentations. This engaged all the students who had demonstrated interest in taking part in the fair, allowing them to choose which skills they would like to develop and the mode of their scientific communication.
We were impressed with the range and depth of the projects which students carried out. As with previous years, we encourage everyone to pursue investigations suited to their passions, either with practical applicability or theoretical significance. We wanted projects that stretched and developed the knowledge and skills of participants. We had a particularly impressive project which looked at the biochemical mechanism behind C3 and C4 photosynthesis and their effects on crop yield and sustainability. Another group presented a fascinating psychological and statistical investigation into methods to increase the response rate on feedback forms using a cluster-randomised trial of different mentor groups. Their curiosity stemmed from the flood of inefficient surveys that students at our College receive on a regular basis.
The Astronomy club presented a beautiful selection of videos on both theoretical and technological aspects of space exploration. On the technological side, one group looked at the asteroid sample return mission Hayabusa 2 from the Japanese Space Agency, while another looked at the physics behind the feasibility of a space elevator. A particularly in-depth investigation presented a case study using astronomical data on the detection and identification of Supernova2020nyb. Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, it was inspiring to see our students demonstrate their ability to plan, research, investigate, and share their passion for science with our community.
More than ten teachers from all the science departments (physics, biology, and chemistry) were involved in judging the fair. In order to give each and every project its due consideration, they were evaluated by at least two judges each on the basis of creativity, depth, analysis, applicability, and scientific communication. We had three categories under which students can submit their projects to be judged – the physical sciences, the life sciences, or the applied sciences. In each category, we awarded a winner and runner up. We want to congratulate everyone who presented and the awarded projects are listed below!
Increasing Plant Productivity: The Fight Against Photorespiration – Shruti, Chaeyoon, Amelia
Neuroscience of Sleep, Dreams and Memories – Dhruvii, Jiatong, Jimin
Hayabusa2 – Joshua, Aditya, Anvay
Detecting and Identifying Supernovas – Uditi, Hemal
Formfluence – Eesha Malhotra, Jason, Ashna, Sarthak
Space Elevator – Suyash, Carter, Jonathan
In addition to giving students the opportunities to present their projects this year, we wanted to give them a platform to showcase and document their work. This is why we decided to found The Student Scientist, a high school scientific journal and magazine dedicated to publishing original research, whether practical or literature-based, conducted by UWCSEA students. We published our very first issue in October, which you can read on our website (https://eastscisoc.wixsite.
We are collaborating with the Alkene and Botany Club on the Dover campus to explore avenues for cross-campus student scientific exploration. For example, we have successfully held the Beyond STEM Conference earlier this year – a series of virtual Alumni Talks in different science and engineering fields that was held from 27 September to 1 October. We are also hoping to explore how the Science Fair can be grown to include Dover students as well!