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Notes from the Science Fair Circuit

By Kim Knox

The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.

Eden Phillipotts

Just a reminder the second annual SF Political Trivia Contest is on Wednesday, March 2 at Dylan's, 2301 Folsom (@ 19th) from 8 to 10 p.m.

The purpose of this free event is to encourage absentee voter registration. Celebrity MCs are Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi and Chris Daly, School Board Commissioners Sarah Lipson, Eric Mar, and Mark Sanchez, and activists Calvin Welch, Lisa Feldstein, Michael Goldstein, and Terry Baum.

Laughter, knowledge and a better than-cash-value-prize are all part of the mix. Hope to see you there.

Some people look forward to the NASCAR races. Some look forward to the Super Bowl. Some look forward to the World Series.

I look forward to San Francisco's Science Fair.

Each year, I am one of the first judges on the premises to do the written evaluations. I get to see the research of our future Booker T. Washingtons, Marie Curies, and Albert Einsteins. Currently, they are doing research as 6th through 9th graders in the private and public schools of San Francisco.

The next day is even more exciting. We get to interview the first and second place winners to see if they really did the research. I have learned about liquids, memory, airplanes, and sound. I've learned about water testing, recycling, biomass, and fluid dynamics.

I've been a science fair judge in Denver, Memphis, Atlanta, and San Francisco. I even wrote a book about organizing a science fair along with water-related science fair ideas.

My favorite memory of a science fair is the young woman I met who had created a fascinating exhibit on improving the aerodynamics of airplanes. It was obvious that she had done the work herself and her enthusiasm is still fresh in my memory 12 years later.

Another image comes from another judge. Each year, the Louisville (Ky.) Science Fair has exhibits by K-6 students. One year, my friend from the Louisville Water Company took a picture of two students. One of them, a kindergartner, is intently talking about his science experiment, which consists of three wooden pencils in a wooden pencil holder. Now most people would not take the science skills of a kindergartner very seriously. But the listener in the picture, a third grader, was rapt, taking notes on the younger student's experiment.

At the end of the day, the results of the Louisville Science Fair were announced. For the first time in its long history, the winner was not a sixth grader. It was that third grader who was so intently listening to the kindergartener. He obviously knew the first rule of science "Listen to the world around you with your ears and your heart."