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Intel ISEF 2014: Student Viewpoint, Part 2

High school students from the Hudson County Science Fair in New Jersey attended the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) 2014 as Student Observers with Society Fellow Marie Aloia, and sent the Society for Science & the Public blog posts about their experience all week.

Day 2

By Marie Aloia

Today I attended the “Expanding the Base” symposium to show some solidarity to other Society Fellows sharing their stories. [Expanding the Base was a panel discussion led by Victor Hall of Society on broadening the base of students participating in science fairs and research to include students that are typically underrepresented or underserved in STEM education.] I’m always in awe of what my colleagues in this program have been able to do. The Society Fellowship and grant has had an invaluable impact on our students and schools.  

It’s amazing what a small amount of strategically placed funding can do. I have seven student observers with me this year; they had to earn their slot by winning a medal at the local fair. Three of them won gold medals and contended for attending as a finalist.  Two others won the top award in their categories, where a gold medal was not given.  The trip to Intel ISEF is my chance to show them “what good looks like” in science and engineering, beyond anything I can tell them.  While our school is located near a port of entry for the United States, has a very diverse population, and my little group this year looks like the United Nations, the experience of internationality here is like no other.  They can make friends for life across all borders.  

The positive message of the opening ceremonies with its challenge to use their talents to make the world a better place is something I try to tell them every day in class. Here, however, they get a taste of what that can actually mean and what they themselves can do. I shared their delight when they told me how they cheered loudly for every country in the Shout Out, posed for pictures with friends and danced our way out of the hall at the end of a wonderful day.

Day 4

By Chrystal Spencer and Tasfia Tasnim, Student Observers, Intel ISEF 2014

We had a bright and early start today. While the finalists spent their day in the Exhibit Hall facing the harsh scrutiny of the judges, the observers took a trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific. It was truly an amazing experience! From the sea horses and the jellyfish to the penguins and the sea lions, we were completely awe-struck by everything that we saw. Aside from the fact that we were surrounded by young children, each and everyone of us was completely captivated by the microcosm of the underwater wonderland.

After this wonderful learning experience, we spent the rest of the day enjoying the diverse entertainments provided by Universal Studios. Intel ISEF booked the entire place for its finalists, student observers and other members affiliated with the fair. It was truly a memorable experience when the studio tour demonstrated the various techniques hidden behind the scenes in numerous well-known movies. Through its various rides and exhibits, such as “Shrek 4D,” “The Mummies,” “The Simpsons,” “Transformers 3D,” and “Despicable Me,” the studios captured every aspect of Hollywood for the guests. Nevertheless, the ambiance of the studios was enhanced by a live DJ and free food. Intel ISEF has truly made today an enjoyable experience for all guests!
By Marie Aloia

Today I helped chaperone the Student Observer trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific. After careful volunteers shepherded the color-coded groups on to buses everything seemed to take care of itself.  The first surprise for many of us was not just the shark tank, but the “shark petting tank.” Not something you think you could do.  Who knew!

There was a tank for small sharks and groups of rays that flitted around in their tank like a flock of birds.  In one tank there was a little bat ray that popped his head up out of the water for everyone that passed so you could pet him. Near the sharks were seals and sea lions, who performed tricks for treats and put on a show for the crowd.  Inside other tanks were fish of every color in the rainbow, along with frogs, sea horses and every size and shape of jellyfish.  Pretty amazing!

The experience was only enhanced by the number of new friends I made among other groups attending from Intel ISEF.  Later that day we had a grand time at Universal Studios. Tomorrow we will be out bright and early to help with Public Day, and look forward to seeing our friends from the Aquarium present again at the Expo.