Panama City, Fla. -- Structured to pique students´ career interests in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics, the 47th Three Rivers Science and Engineering Fair was hosted, Feb. 19, at the Naval Support Activity Panama City (NSA PC).
The annual event unites Florida´s Bay District and Gulf County schools with U.S. Navy laboratories and community professionals.
"What we have here, are the best sixth- through 12th-grade students from 13 public and private schools in Bay County and one project from Gulf County," said Bay District schools resource teacher and science fair coordinator Marica Brady.
Acting as a general representative for the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Aeronautical Engineering Duty Officer Lt. Cmdr. Michael Neaves, volunteered to help judge the competition and present qualifying students naval science awards at a ceremony scheduled to occur at a later date. Neaves also works as an engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division – a tenant command at NSA PC.
"ONR is participating by awarding students whose projects represent what the Navy is looking for in the next generation of scientists, technologists, and mathematicians," Neaves said.
Brady stated the Three Rivers fair requires students to prepare for questions from the judges that will show a strong understanding of scientific processes. Students later receive recognition for their efforts ranging from cash awards to special plaques from local and federal agencies.
According to Brady, student projects ranged from practical to complex.
"We have projects represented here that are applicable to your home environment as well as unique perspectives on topics you may have seen commercially," Brady said. "We´re structuring this science and engineering fair to encourage a love for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – those career areas that our nation is in need of right now."
Neaves credited students for thinking like scientists by articulating how they intended to improve their projects´ test methods for next year´s event.
Exemplifying this trait, Lauren Hauser of Bay Haven Charter Academy, explained how she would improve her project titled, "The Color of Heat," for next year´s competition. Hauser wrapped several jars of water with construction paper using different colors to determine which colors best absorbed the sun´s heat.
"If I conducted this experiment again, I would use a heat lamp for a consistent source of temperature of applied heat," Hauser said, adding she would also wrap jars with cloth instead of paper to more accurately represent how various colors of clothing absorb heat differently.
Brady said winners from the Three Rivers event would be announced at a later date, but that at least one student from this event would automatically qualify to compete at the international level.
"That is because we are officially affiliated with the international event," Brady said, adding that once students qualify for international-level competition the awards are considerably larger.
Neaves said that the Office of Naval Research is equally supportive of the follow-on events, which also offer sizeable incentives.
"ONR is very proud to represent the Navy and Marine Corps at the International Science and Engineering Fair each May, awarding 22, $8,000 scholarship awards to students recognized in each scientific category and in projects relevant to naval services," Neaves said.
Nationally, ONR sponsors Navy and Marine Corps prizes at more than 425 regional, district, and state science fairs each year.
Brady explained students selected at the fair will compete at the state competition to be held in Lakeland, Fla. Additionally, one senior student selected at the fair will compete at the international fair later this year in Atlanta.