The 249 kids that eagerly crammed into the Newtown High School gym for the Southern Connecticut Invitational Science and Engineering Fair (SCISEF) was an incredible contrast to the meager eight participants that attended the first SCISEF competition at Staples in 2001.
The fair, created by Staples, is one of multiple science competitions that students in the Staples Science Research Program attend. At the county level, the fair is in the smallest of the three divisions (county, state, and national) of science fairs that Staples students participate in.
As science research teacher Nick Morgan explains, the success of Staples students at SCISEF ‘fluctuates’ over the years. However, this year has been very successful for six students in particular.
Virginia Gerig ’17, Sam Chinitz ’16, Xiaotian Zhang ’16, Kristen Onorato ’15, Dominic Wynter ’15, and Jeffery Burns ’14 were all recognized for outstanding research by the judges at SCISEF.
All of these students presented innovative projects from grafting non-leguminous plants to reengineering the regenerative braking system in hybrid and electric cars that impressed the judges.
Morgan emphasized the difficulty in coming up with such complex topics. “It takes a year to think of what to do in this case because you’re trying to think of something that no human has ever done,” Morgan said.
After originating a topic students must expend ample time and effort to complete their projects before even thinking about presenting to the judges at SCISEF. For Jeffery Burns ’14, completing his project meant devoting his summer to dissecting and analyzing the stomach contents of different Squilla Empusa at the Milford NOAA labs.
The format of SCISEF is comfortingly similar to other science fairs in format, but that doesn’t mean students still don’t feel the nerves of competing. “Competing at SCISEF can be very stressful at times because you are presenting in front of judges who are often selected by comparing your project to their field of expertise,” Burns said.
Although participating in SCISEF is a lot of work, the research students really enjoy attending the fair. “It is very interesting to walk around and see all of the work that other high school students are doing, especially in your field,” Burns said.
“SCISEF is always very interesting, because there are a lot of highly intellectual projects that broaden my views on the many different fields of science,” Kristen Onorato ’15, who has competed at SCISEF twice, agreed.