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Inquiry First.

After collecting ticks for her originally intended science fair project, Braintree High School sophomore Jacqueline Flynn decided to pursue a topic on ticks with a different spin (or rather, spin cycle).

Worried about keeping her clothing tick free after collecting the parasitic arachnids, Flynn researched methods of killing them in the laundry. She found a large lack of data on the subject, with recommendations while washing machines were ineffective, that a full hour in a dryer would kill them. However, after her own extensive testing, she found that five minutes on a low-heat cycle would be sufficient.

Soon Flynn's project results garnered attention from the state parks and forestry services as well as officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who said they were willing to help her expand on her research. "It just spread very fast," Flynn told the School Committee.

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As a sixth grader, Nathan Han of Boston received first-place honors at MSSEF's 2011 Middle School Science Fair for his project, "A Study of Somatic Sensory Receptive Fields in Human Skin." From there, he went on to the Broadcom MASTERS -- a prestigious national STEM competition for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

This spring, Nathan has another honor to add to the list.  He has been named one of 30 semifinalists in Disney's Iron Man 3 Inventor and Innovator Fair. Held in conjunction with the release of Marvel’s “Iron Man 3,” starring Robert Downey Jr., the competition asked students from across the United States... Read More

Cora Beth Abel, Executive Director of the Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair, recently shared her perspective on the value and challenges of science fairs with Heather Goldstone of WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station.

During the nearly half-hour-long interview, Abel emphasized the importance of mentors in the science fair process.  "Scientists can really help a student experience and understand how 'real' science gets accomplished," she said.  "The student gets to 'own' the research project and will probably have to overcome some obstacles, which demands curiosity.  Science fair projects are more relevant than ever before given our high-stakes innovation economy."  MSSEF's Curious Minds initiative takes a multi-pronged approach to... Read More

While most of his peers likely slept late and played video games, Jagath Jai Kumar, a freshman at Hopedale Jr-Sr. High School, took the opportunity presented by Tuesday's snow day to put a few finishing touches on his award-winning science fair project.

Having taken second place at the March 9 Worcester Regional Science & Engineering Fair at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Jagath has his sites set on the Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair, scheduled for May 2-4 at MIT.

Jagath's project explores the question of whether infrared or ultrasonic sensors do a better job at helping robots detect objects. "I found that infrared sensors were better, both with getting faster times and seeing more objects," Jagath said. "It completely contradicted my original hypothesis."

Althought he's only 14, Jagath has a career path in mind: biotechnology. "I know I want to get into that and I have a lot of ideas," he said.

Read more on Milford... Read More

Last year, Tyler Dewitt, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology gave an inspiring talk at Tedx Beacon Street, recently made available online.

In short, Tyler believes scientists should present science as a "story."  He suggests that there would be benefits to be had by moving away from the dry textbook-style learning and toward making science more fun and interactive for all students.

Tyler supports STEM education through his involvement with MIT's K12 video initiative and his own YouTube channel.

~Shannon Morey

The 2012 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education results were released last month. Based on the responses, the need for increased support to science and math teachers is clear.

The survey, endorsed by numerous professional educator and scientific societies, polled thousands of K-12 teachers from around the nation.  Education Week pulled a number of interesting statistics from the report, noting that only one-third of middle school math teachers have a degree in either math or math education.  Additionally, a majority of elementary teachers do not feel "very well prepared" to teach science and only 20 percent of them teach science every day.  This is especially concerning given the move to the common-core standards.  Many of the skills pushed by the new standards are those that teachers report feeling most uncomfortable with, such as having students explain... Read More

On March 9th and 10th, MIT Mechanical Engineering Professor David Wallace and the MIT Office of Digital Learning hosted the Education Design-a-thon, an education hacking event for MIT students and anyone interested in education.  Organizations posed challenges and attendees chose one project to work on throughout the 32-hour event.

Projects ranged from the purely virtual -- video games teaching computer program cell phone apps to help dropouts resume their education -- to the extremely tactile: robotic drawing arms and hands-on tools to help teachers design curriculum.

~Shannon Morey

MSSEF board member and award-winning meteorologist Mish Michaels collaborated with Gerhard Sonnert and Philip Sadler, both of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, on an article that explores the relationship between gender and the science fair experience.  Entitled, "Gender Aspects of Participation, Support, and Success in a State Science Fair," the paper considers data from student participation in the 2009 Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair, investigating the role that gender played in students’ participation, choice of science field, award of prizes, and mentioning inspiring teachers.

Among the findings:

  • Rather than being under-represented at this science fair, girls were were slightly overrepresented, making up 62% of 2009's Massachusetts state high school fair participants.
  • Girls exhibited a strong preference for the life sciences.
  • A gender-matched student–teacher pair held no advantage when it came to outcomes.... Read More

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have organized Synergy: An Experiment in Art and Science Collaboration.  This has culminated in an exhibit at Boston's Museum of Science.  The exhibit matched artists with scientists at WHOI to showcase the experiential side of science.  Synergy hopes to demonstrate the creative and analytical side of both science and art.  The exhibit will be on display through May. Check it out!

~ Shannon Morey

The Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair (MSSEF) provides middle and high school students with the opportunity to work on independent research projects in science and engineering. Now in its 64th year, the annual statewide fair will feature the highest quality projects of hundreds of students from across the Commonwealth. We will need more than 300 outstanding judges to donate their time to evaluate these students' work.  Some students invest more than 1,000 hours of research in their projects!

Volunteer to judge! Please consider being a member of the distinguished judging panel at the 2013 State Science & Engineering Fair.  If you have received a four-year college degree in a science or technology subject, and work in a related field, you are eligible to judge and may... Read More

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