By Scott Achelpohl
Deputy Editor, Seapower
The Bremerton/Olympic Peninsula Council provided administrative support and project judging for the all-virtual 2020 Washington State Science and Engineering Fair (WSSEF) on March 27.
As part of initiatives to support youth interest in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM), 10 council volunteers worked from their home computers to help keep dreams alive for more than 250 future scientists and engineers in grades nine through 12 from across the state.
The WSSEF normally is conducted annually at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Washington. Each year, the number of participants from first through 12th grades had been growing, with about 1,000 students, more than 250 teachers and about 200 judges planned on converging.
As part of the fair, the council has presented cash awards to students whose projects best contributed to the advancement of STEM. Two awards were presented each in grade groups first through third, fourth through sixth, seventh through eighth and ninth through 12th.
Because of COVID-19 social gathering restrictions, the 2020 WSSEF went 100% virtual as students presented their projects from home using virtual meeting software while judges evaluated the projects from home as well — all administered by science and engineering fair staff from their homes or offices.
The student entrants were limited to grades nine through 12 primarily to select those winners from Washington state to go on to follow-on regional, national and international competitions. As a result, all special awards, including those presented by the council, were canceled.
While the Bremerton-Olympic council originally had more than 30 members signed up to judge in person at the fair, only 10 were able to participate as judges and/or as virtual session administrators.
Judges listened to the student’s presentations, reviewed the material provided in advance, asked questions of them to probe their knowledge of the material and scientific principles, and scored their projects using a rubric provided by the fair.