By Samantha Johnson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Grades 4-8 students from Medicine Hat and the surrounding region participated in the 48th annual Kiwanis Southeast Alberta Regional Science Fair on April 1 at Medicine Hat College. Organizer Dr. Peter Walis was pleased to see the science fair take place in person again, which hadn’t occurred since 2019. There were virtual ones in 2020 and 2021, which were reasonably successful and worked well for rural schools, but it’s not the same as having an in-person one.
This year, there was a virtual science fair the week prior and some students participated in both. Walis explained this was only to their benefit, as they received feedback from the virtual fair and had a week to improve their project before the in-person one.
This year, there were 52 projects with more than 70 students competing.
“That is, to be honest, better than I had hoped for because getting things going after the whole COVID is not so easy,” said Walis. “People have gotten away from all the stuff we used to do, but the community response has been terrific. I got 42 judges here, engineers, scientists, educators, and public elected officials.”
President of MHC Kevin Shufflebotham, as well as vice-president academic at MHC Dr. Nancy Brown and Mayor Linnsie Clark were all on hand to judge projects in the science fair.
“Our region is quite large, up to Oyen, down to the south border, out to Saskatchewan border, east to grasslands, including Brooks,” explained Walis. “Most competitors are fairly local from the city. MHPSD, MHCBE, Cape school is a big competitor, Cherry Coulee brought a bunch of students, Ralston School, Connaught, Ecole Les Cypres are all strong supporters of Science Fair and have students here today.”
There is no requirement to earning a spot at the Kiwanis fair, registrations are accepted from anyone in the grade range. All registration is online and Patty Rooks, senior scientific consultant for Praxis Science Outreach Society and science outreach coordinator at MHC, goes into the schools to help students who are interested and explains how the science fair works.
The fair was an all-day event with judging wrapping up in the early afternoon.
Each project was judged at least three times, before scores were entered and decisions made on who won the bronze, intermediate and senior levels.
“We have to work quickly once we know the winners to print up the certificates and get the prizes all doled out,” said Walis.
Walis added he was grateful to MHC for their financial assistance and use of the main hall for the science fair. He explained that funds are tight this year. Fees for sending the three contestants, along with a chaperone, to the national science fair are all covered and cost about $2,000 per person.
May will feature the Canada Wide Science Fair in Edmonton.
“Edmonton isn’t too exciting for kids here but next year it will be in Fredericton, which will be more interesting,” said Walis. “It’s a whole week for them. A day of judging, a formal event for awards, there are tours. It’s a terrific opportunity for young scientists.” It’s the big league of science fairs, where those competing get to meet and network with more than 500 student competitors from across Canada.
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