New names have been chosen for many of the 13 science fair categories, but two of them are brand new.
Molecular biology and biochemistry and intelligence machines and robotics systems have been chosen as the new categories at the Alachua Regional Science and Engineering Fair this year.
“The new categories were included because we are starting to see a higher level of competition in the fair,” said Maureen Shankman, the science fair director. “So that expertise is starting to be narrowed down into certain sciences.”
The two new categories were added because they were areas of science that had not been covered in any of the previously existing categories, Shankman said.
Students from public, private, home and charter schools compete at the regional science fair level today in the Santa Fe College gym. Two team projects and 28 individual student projects will move onto the state science fair, which will take place from March 30 through April 2 in Lakeland.
Shankman said the students had to compete and place at their individual school level in order for them to move onto the regional level. There are over 180 projects from across the district competing in the fair.
Dr. Bobbi Langkamp-Henken, a professor at the University of Florida, will be a judge for the regional science fair. She has been a judge for the science fair for the past 15 years.
“It’s actually quite stressful to be a judge because the students have all worked so hard,” Langkamp-Henken said. “What I enjoy the most is talking with the students because it is impressive to hear about what they know.”
Langkamp-Henken has been in charge of a science fair mentoring program at Westwood Middle School for the past 12 years. She started the program for at-risk sixth grade students. The fair is more than just science, she said. The students learn how to introduce themselves to others, shake hands, type on a computer, make graphs, and use the library.
“I am mentoring a middle school student and he is going to the regional science fair,” Langkamp-Henken said. “He has more initiative and is more excited about science than I see in some of my UF students.”
The regional fair awards ceremony will be held Tuesday at Lincoln Middle School. The ceremony will feature awards to the top three places in each category, as well as special awards and junior and senior grand prize awards.