Bremerton, Washington. The Bremerton/Olympic Peninsula Council of the Navy League of the United States (NLUS) presented cash awards and certificates to six students this month at the 2016 Washington State Science and Engineering Fair (WSSEF) held at Bremerton High School. As part of the Council’s initiatives in supporting youth interest in Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics (STEM), sixteen Council volunteers were on hand to judge for basic fair awards, judge for the Navy League awards, Office of Naval Research awards and present their awards to the winners at the awards ceremonies.
The awards were given to those students whose projects best contributed to the advancement of science, engineering, or technology in support of our nation’s Sea Services (Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine). Two awards were presented each in Grade groups 1-3, Grades 4-6. And Grade groups 7-8. One award was also given to Grades 9-12.
This year’s 59th annual WSSEF featured over 600 students from over 120 schools from across the state presenting their projects. Up to $1.8M in scholarships and awards was available to participating students, as well as the potential to advance to higher levels of competition within the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) system.
Several of the scholarships were major annual stipends to attend specific colleges or universities, including Seattle Pacific University, Ohio Wesleyan University, Whitman College, and Evergreen State College.
Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent welcomed students and parents at both awards ceremonies (Grades 1-6, then Grades 7-12) on the second night of the fair. “Events such as this fair are very important in encouraging academic improvement in our schools and getting kids excited about science and engineering. Right here at Bremerton High School, we’re seeing our best graduation rate since the 1970’s–now 84% and several points above the state average—an achievement 40 years in the making.”
Students not only displayed understanding of their projects, but also were fine ambassadors for their generation. They were poised and articulate, and most were really excited about what they had been able to accomplish.
The WSSEF was started by the Bremerton Council of the Parent’s Teacher’s Association with an original budget of $25, and has been held in Kitsap Country all but one year since inception. Before Bremerton High School, the fair was more recently held at Olympic College. Student participation has doubled in just the past decade from just over 200 projects in 2003, to over 600 this year.
Beam also praised the work of the current WSSEF Board and volunteers, especially Dr. Michael Huey, Head Judge since 1996 and WSSEF Board President, and Caroline Stein, Sponsorship Coordinator. “The organizers of the State Fair deserve special commendation for their excellent planning and dedication. We are fortunate to be able to host the State Science Fair in Kitsap County each year and bring this many students and their families to an area that they might not otherwise ever see.”
Parents of WSSEF students are also appreciative of the opportunity the fair provides their kids, as well as the engagement by volunteer judges. According to a WSSEF flyer, one parent had this to say about her child’s experience, “He worked so hard on his school Science Project and his participation in the Fair was a bit of a whim. We had no idea what he was getting into. But, we had a sense that one who works hard on something should share their results; and in so doing he was rewarded–rewarded mostly by having people who care and really listen to what he did, inquire more deeply and ask probing questions. The judges, the fair-goers and the other scientists!!! Thank you so much for such a positive experience.”
Stein thanked the Navy League for their participation. “Having individuals from our sponsoring organizations actually attend and participate in the fair, especially as judges, significantly enhances the experience for our students. They are all so excited about their projects and are thrilled to have an attentive adult to listen to them explain their work.