Dayon Taylor retired from service this year, after more than 20 years volunteering on the Display and Safety Committee for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF). Below Dayon talks about his teaching experiences and why he has volunteered at Intel ISEF for so many years.
After college I began working with the United States Department of Agriculture. My dad wanted me to come back home and help with the family dairy and teach chemistry for a year. I was not an education major, but I had a major in biology/agronomy and a minor in chemistry. It was hard to find someone with a teaching endorsement in chemistry, so I was given a waiver.
I soon realized that a problem with most schools was that they were teaching all classes, including the science classes, directly out of the text. Science is a process and not just a collection of information to be recalled on a test. I thought biology, chemistry, physics, etc. should be taught the same way auto mechanics, welding and many vocational classes were taught. Many labs were poorly equipped, so I began looking for other ways of teaching science skills.
I soon learned about science fairs and began requiring each of my students to conduct some kind of research, in order to acquire the skills used in the process of investigation and discovery. My students gradually became the ones you would have to beat in order to advance to the next level in scientific contests. I was able to send a large number of students through college on scholarships resulting from their work on science projects and in other science contests.
I began working with a district science fair and soon became the director. That led me to reviewing display and safety (D&S) requirements for the regional fair. I went on to work in D&S at ISEF for three years, along with additional science fairs. Then, when ISEF was held in Nashville in 1992, I served as the D&S chair. At that time, the D&S enforced Scientific Review Committee (SRC) rules. While preparing for ISEF 1992, I recruited science teachers and trained them along with volunteers from DuPont, Northern Telecom, and students from local universities at the regional science fairs in Tennessee to be the core committee for ISEF.
Bill Ritter, who led the SRC at that time, praised the way the D&S was done in Nashville and asked for me to fill out an advisory council application. I was selected to be on the council and assigned to head the D&S. By the end of my three years on the council, I was selected to head a permanent D&S committee and develop a similar core group as I did in Nashville. I was the D&S chair from 1992 -2005.
Including this year I have attended 33 ISEF’s, beginning in 1978 when I traveled there with my first regional science fair winner. I have missed four ISEF’s since my first one, but have been at every fair since 1985. I have sponsored and supervised 35 finalists at ISEF throughout the years, all of whom won scholarships.
It has been a very rewarding experience over the years and something that I will miss. I encourage anyone else who is interested in science to consider volunteering for both local science fairs and events like the Intel ISEF.