WESTFIELD – As with almost everything these days, the annual science and engineering fair at Westfield High School, which is scheduled for Feb. 9, will be different.
“It’s very different this year. We are embracing the curve ball of COVID. What we are doing is a virtual fair,” said Science, Technology and Engineering Supervisor Lauren Figy.
She said normally, students would be exhibiting their projects in the gymnasium, and the school would have over 100 judges, many from the community, interviewing the students and scoring the projects.
This year, students will be submitting five-minute videos, which will initially be judged inhouse, Figy said, adding that after the initial judging, those students moving on to regionals will get feedback from interested industry partners in town. Regionals will take place over the week of March 12, and are being run by Smith College again this year. The award ceremony for regionals is March 20.
Currently, there are 161 students registered to participate from Westfield HIgh School and Westfield Technical Academy. While there are some freshmen participating, the fair was geared to tenth through twelfth graders this year, due to the limited time students had in-person learning.
Figy said the school is helping students with their videos. They have a choice of programs, and can choose how they will record.
“We worked really hard this year to make this affordable for all students. Some students are doing real projects – other students are doing a proposal,” Figy said, adding that normally they would help students to do their projects in school with school supplies. Due to remote learning, they created a proposal category. Students can either submit a full-on project, or a proposal for a project.
“It’s an equity thing – we didn’t want kids not to participate because they couldn’t afford the supplies or didn’t have access to supplies,” Figy said.
Both states and regionals also have a proposal category. Figy said they were fortunate, as both she and Science Teacher Jon Tyler work closely with the regional fair.
“This is new for all of us. We’ll get statements from the winning team to post for the public. We have kids that do really, really well, and kids who did well at states last year even when it was changed to remote,” Figy said. She said she would announce the students moving on to regionals after the judging on Feb. 9. Due to privacy issues, the videos will not be public.
“I’m really excited for Tuesday. The teachers are pretty excited,” Figy said, adding that she had to give a shout out to WHS and WTA teachers. “They’ve been all in on this. It’s more stressful this year – it’s been a lot of work on that end, but teachers are amazing and have been really working with their students to get the best product they can.”
“Science fair is a wonderful community event. I look forward to it every year. This year, we’re trying it to make it the best event we can,” Figy said, adding that hopefully next year they will be able to run an amazing, in person science fair once again.