The season of science fairs is upon us, and students across Michigan are preparing to exhibit their knowledge and ingenuity in competition for scholarships and other lucrative prizes.

Science fairs originated in 1942, when the Westinghouse corporation joined with the Science Service, a nonprofit organization, to establish the Science Talent Search.[1] Today, there are hundreds of science fairs held annually at the local, state, regional, national and international levels. Alumni include Nobel laureates and recipients of the National Medal of Science and Field Medal, and MacArthur Foundation Fellows.

While competitors of yesteryear were content to win a ribbon and bragging rights, today’s students are competing for far more valuable awards. Nina Vasan, for example, collected more than $58,000 in prizes and an invitation to the 2002 Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm after winning the 2002 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

The proliferation of science fairs has spawned hundreds of Web sites offering project ideas and advice. Among them are presentation tips from Elmer’s Glue and Dr. Shawn’s Idea Bank, where "The most awesome collection of science project ideas is just a click away." Meanwhile, lists 6,531 titles related to science fairs, including "Science Fair Projects for Dummies" and "Last-Minute Science Fair Projects: When Your Bunsen’s Not Burning but the Clock’s Really Ticking."

Michael Benda, a Michigan teacher and frequent science fair judge, said originality and scientific rigor are the most important elements of a successful project. "I want to know if the student has come up with something that a person their age could actually conceptualize, like the student who came up with what I considered a very original idea — the best way to maintain the sweetness of stored carrots," said Benda, who teaches science at Jeffers High School in Painesdale, in the Upper Peninsula.

Tim Fino, director of the Science and Engineering Fair of Metropolitan Detroit and a judge for the International Science Fair, evaluates five components of each project: creativity and scientific thought are both weighted at 30 percent; thoroughness and skill are weighted at 15 percent each; and, clarity at 10 percent. "For team projects, I add a component for teamwork of 16 percent and decrease the others proportionally," Fino said.

Nicholas Ekladyous, winner of the 2005 Flint Area Science Fair, describes science fairs as "an opportunity to reflect on all the ways science has positively impacted our lives.

The best advice I can give is: Don’t quit trying," he said. "Eventually you will achieve your goals with enough determination."

[1] From “History of Science Service” at

For list of fairs go to

Science Fair Description Contacts

Science and Engineering Fair of Metro Detroit

When: March 20-24

Where: Cobo Center

Open to students in grades 7-12 in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.


P.O. Box 158

Farmington, MI 48332

Southeast Michigan

Science Fair

When: March 9-10
Where: Washtenaw Community College

Open to students in grades 6-12 in
Livingston, Washtenaw, Monroe,
Hillsdale and Lenawee counties.

Washtenaw Community College

4800 E. Huron River Dr.

P.O. Box 1610

Ann Arbor, MI 48106


Michigan Envirothon

When: May 3-4

Where: Camp Cavell Sanilac County

High school team competition.

Teresa Salveta

P.O. Box 30017,

Lansing, MI 48909


Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge

When: June – Sept.

Students in grades 5-8 nationwide. dysc/accept/details.html

SkillsUSA Championships

When: April 27-29

Where: Lansing Community College

Members of SkillsUSA and
National Technical Honors Society.

Tammy Brown

Eastern Michigan University

Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Michigan Science Olympiad

When: April 28

Where: Michigan State University

Division B:

Grades 6-9

Division C:

Grades 9-12

Mark A. Van Hecke

157 Loretta Street

East China, MI 48054


810-765-2803 FAX
810-217-6056 MOBILE

Intel Science and

Engineering Fair

When: May 13-19

Where: Albuquerque,

New Mexico

Grades 9-12

Intel Science and

Talent Search

When: March 8-13

Where: Washington D.C.

High School Seniors

Siemens Competition

When: December 2007

Where: New York University, NY

Individual entries: High School Seniors; Team entries:

Grades 9-12 scholarships-and-aid/23619.html