April 25, 2019

State science fair returns to SIU May 3-4

by Tim Crosby

The overall per-capita science proficiency in Carbondale will rise significantly early next month, as Southern Illinois University Carbondale plays host to the Illinois Junior Academy of Science State Fair.

The event, set for May 3-4 at the SIU Arena, will bring about 1,500 top junior high and high school science students from around Illinois to campus, as well as their parents, teachers and other supporters. SIU will temporarily open a limited number of rooms in one of its tower residence halls to accommodate the expected need for short-term housing, organizers say.

Event is returning to SIU

The event will mark the second time SIU has hosted the state science fair since the Illinois Junior Academy of Science begin rotating its location to institutions around the state. Kathy Pericak-Spector, retired professor of mathematics who is acting as liaison between the IJAS and SIU for the event, said the event is an important opportunity for the university.

“It gives us a chance to show off what we have here, not only at the university but in Southern Illinois. We have so many opportunities here at SIU, and when parents come along, they get to see that, too, as well as younger siblings,” she said. “Basically, we get to do this every four years.”

Awards aplenty on tap

SIU and the Carbondale area is providing about 200 judges for the event, including faculty, students and community members.

The IJAS will give two awards each for grades 7-8 and 9-12. But SIU and a host of other groups and agencies also will give awards for the best projects in special areas. To qualify for SIU’s special awards, contestants must register in advance.

“What I really like about our awards is many departments not only give a monetary award to the student, but also to their schools,” Pericak-Spector said.

Suites available on campus

University Housing is making 200 suites in Mae Smith Hall on the east side of campus available for the event, putting the event within easy walking distance. Suites sleep up to eight and cost $100 for one night or $160 for two nights and include a free parking pass. Registering in advance is highly recommended, and rooms are going fast.

Two days of presentations and fun

On the afternoon of May 3, students will present their papers and judges will review their work. During their free time throughout the day, the students will tour the SIU campus, checking out various science and other facilities such as the Transportation Education Center at Southern Illinois Airport.

That evening, the university will host a “Pizza and Pie and Pi” event at the Student Center. It will include various activities sponsored by campus departments and student organizations, games and food.

On May 4, Students will give formal presentations on the posters that illustrate and explain their scientific work. Their 10-minute presentations will take place 9 a.m. to noon. The public will be able to the view the various posters and displays from noon to 3 p.m. that day, with the awards ceremony beginning shortly thereafter.

Special event for those staying over

For those competitors who opt to spend Saturday night in Carbondale as well, the university will host a “May the 4th Be With You” series of events at the Student Recreation Center that evening. Activities such as the climbing wall and pool will be available, as well as games provided by local business Castle Perilous, Pericak-Spector said. Those interested must register in advance for this event.

Learning skills for the future

Pericak-Spector said participating in the event teaches students the scientific method, but much more.

“It certainly shows them how to define a problem, research it, design experiments, collect data and then analyze that data,” she said. “I think analyzing the data is one of the most important parts because it teaches critical thinking and thinking outside the box. These are all skills students need to move on with their education.”