The Big Walnut Science Fair is tonight at Big Walnut High School.
Students begin setting up entries at 5:30 p.m. with judging complete about 8:30. If wicked weather hits the area, though the long-term forecast says cold but only 10 percent chance of snow, the snow date is next Thursday, February 16. The location is the same, in the high school atrium and cafeteria.
The number of students who may participate is around 200, offering 100 to120 projects, said science fair co-coordinator Matt Wallschlaeger.
“About 90 percent of the projects will be shown by Big Walnut Intermediate School 5th graders, which is a requirement in their science curriculum,” Wallschlaeger said. “Big Walnut Middle School will have around 10 to15 projects, and the high school will have four projects.”
Wallschlaeger said Big Walnut has provided a local school district science fair for over five decades, which is rare for non-STEM schools today.
“Those students who receive a Superior on their projects will advance to the Central District Science Fair at Columbus State on March 18,” Wallschlaeger said. “And those who receive a Superior at Central District advance to State Science Day competition at Ohio State on May 13.”
Science Fair co-coordinator Linda Martin said about 50 individuals with a science, technology, or science-related education backgrounds volunteer to serve as judges during the Big Walnut Science Fair. The greater Columbus science and tech community has always volunteered judges, and this year there will be new Battelle judges, as well as returning Battelle judges, Martin said.
“Also this year we have several new judge volunteers from the Ohio Wildlife Center in Powell, and returning judges that were my science students, which I love,” Martin said. “On the sadder side, we lost a wonderful professor and judge from Ohio Wesleyan University in the past year or so, Dr. Jed Burtt, who championed the fair and specific students for years.”
Martin said since she began coordinating the science fair in 1989 she has seen judges bow out due to hearing loss, becoming snow birds and gone every February, or who can no longer drive at night.
“We’re always happy to get new recruits, with or without judging experience,” Martin said. “New volunteers are always paired with one of our more experienced judges the first year to make everyone’s evening run more smoothly.”
Martin said some students dread the Big Walnut Science Fair, some get excited by the whole process, some students make mentor connections for the future, and some students even begin to cement their ideas about their post-secondary and career direction.
Martin said the Big Walnut Science Fair is also a community effort.
“Once again, the judges’ dinner is being catered by Antonio’s Pizza on Sunbury Road, with some additions from my kitchen and desserts coming from Big Walnut Intermediate School PTO members,” Martin said. “Betty Kimble and several of her high school students are overseeing the set-up, serving, and cleanup of the dinner. I believe we will have several Honor Society members acting as runners for the judges’ score cards that night, and lots of high school science department teachers manning what we call the War Room. It really takes a large village to pull this off.”
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.