I’m a mother, research scientist, and educator. I’ve seen (and contributed to) the inequities in our K-12 educational system. At my kids’ school – a public school – all classrooms have smart boards, the library is packed with books, teachers use a computer lab to enhance student’s learning, students engage in after-school enrichment programs, and the active Parent Teacher Association brings in money and resources for just about anything the students need to be successful.
I had fully immersed myself into mentoring students at my kids’ school during their Science & Engineering Fair. In fact, I and a whole committee of other available parents had organized the fair with a budget of over $2k. After my first year as a volunteer in this capacity at my kids’ school, a teacher from a nearby school asked if I could help create the same experience at their school. This school had Title 1 status, which means is serves a very large population of families living in poverty. At this school, classrooms don’t have smart boards. There is no computer lab. After school educational enrichment programs? No, they are simply un-affordable. These students do not have access to a fraction of the tools and resources that my kids have.
Both schools are public schools. The difference is socioeconomic. The difference is the parents’ availability, flexibility and connection to resources that they bring into their children’s schools.
A couple of weeks after helping this teacher at the Title 1 school to organize and implement an inclusive and skills-based Science & Engineering Fair, she had reached out to me to share a story. She explained how one of her most at-risk students had come to her the day after the fair and had declared that he was going to be an engineer when he grew up. From that point forward, he had totally turned around his behavior in class. He was focused. He was dedicated. He had found something that he connected with. He believed in himself and knew “Hey I can do this!”
That experience changed my life. I ditched my career at a geophysics research professor at one of the top engineering programs in the country to fully dedicating myself to giving K-12 students the tools and resources they need to be successful in STEM through their school-wide Science & Engineering Fairs. That experience marked the birth of Science Fair Fun.
Science Fair Fun is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that helps to break the cycle of K-12 science education inequities. We foster students’ development of skills that they need to prepare for engineering and technology careers. We do this through a new, innovative approach to supporting families and schools during Science & Engineering Fairs. At Science Fair Fun, we bring inclusive and skills-based Science & Engineering Fairs to schools that don’t have fairs, and we serve those who are underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM), namely girls, minorities, and those from low-income communities.
So how do we do it? First, we inspire students to connect with science, technology and engineering behind things in their everyday lives. They make observations, they ask questions, and we provide direction on where to go to answer those questions. At this point, they are hooked and leading their own learning. Then we take them into a new and innovative framework of a Science & Engineering Fair that is inclusive and skills-based. From there, we empower them to design authentic projects all around these things that inspire them. We do this by providing students with the tools they need to develop skills for success and by supporting all of the grownups around them so they can effectively mentor those students.
Our end goal is to get kids excited about exploring science, engineering and technology careers. We do this starting as early as elementary school so that kids can continue to apply their skills – namely creativity and problems solving – throughout their K12 education. As you may know, kids – especially girls – identify as being STEM capable as early as 3rd Grade. So, it is essential that we give students the tools they need to have positive experiences in STEM starting early. That way, when it comes time to making decisions about their career paths in high school, they’ll believe in themselves and know “Hey, I can do this”.
I’ve passionately dedicated myself to Science Fair Fun’s impact since 2014. I invite you to join me at ScienceFairFun.org. Together we can level the Science & Engineering Fair playing field!
Founder + Executive Director
Science Fair Fun