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Science Engineering Fair Attracts Top Young Scientists and Engineers

By: 

Jeannie Kever

More than 1,300 middle school and high school students from Houston and across Southeast Texas will be on the University of Houston campus later this month for one of the nation’s largest competitive science and engineering fairs.

The 56th Science Engineering Fair of Houston (SEFH) will be held Feb. 27-28 at the UH Athletic & Alumni Center, the first time it has been on the UH campus. Judging will take place Saturday, Feb. 28, and the awards ceremony will be Sunday, March 1, at the UH Cullen Performance Hall. All projects will be on display for public viewing at the Athletic & Alumni Center, 3100 Cullen Boulevard, from 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. March 1.

“It’s an incredibly exciting event,” said Professor Bonnie J. Dunbar, director of the Science Engineering Fair of Houston (SEFH) and director of the UH STEM Center. Dunbar, a former NASA astronaut, is also director of the aerospace engineering program and the space architecture program at the University’s Cullen College of Engineering.

The student competitors represent 125 schools, including public, private and charter schools, as well as home-school students. All have won local science fair competitions.

At a time when the nation is facing a dramatic shortage of qualified scientists and engineers, Dunbar said that science fairs are important ways to inspire students into thinking about careers in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – fields.

She cited a 2012 report by President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, “Engage to Excel,” which recommended the nation graduate 1 million new scientists and engineers by 2022 in order to be competitive in the 21st century.

“In order to graduate more scientists and engineers, we need more and better prepared math and science high school students for our colleges of engineering, math and science,” she said. “At the completion of a college education in engineering, math, biology, chemistry and physics are a wealth of careers with opportunities to creatively solve some of the most pressing challenges of our time.”

Paula Myrick Short, vice president for academic affairs and provost at UH, said the University wants to encourage the hard-working and innovative students participating in the Science Engineering Fair.

“These students, and the fascinating projects they will have on display, serve as a reminder that the future is bright,” Short said. “These young people have the skills and imagination that will be crucial for solving the problems facing our nation and the world. The University of Houston is pleased to provide support by hosting this event.” 

SEFH is a member of the INTEL International Science Engineering Fair circuit, and winners will travel to the Texas competition in San Antonio in March. Grand award winners will be eligible to attend the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in May.

Chevron Corporation is the presenting sponsor for the event.

Contributing sponsors include Air Liquide, the American Petroleum Institute, Exxon Mobil, Phillips 66, Shell and the University of Houston. The Houston Geological Society has pledged $50,000 to establish an endowment for the SEFH at the University of Houston, ensuring funding in perpetuity for the program. The Engineering Council of Houston initiated the endowment, and Fred and Ruth Stoerkel and Dunbar also contributed to the endowment.

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