Science Fairs Invade the Web

Bishops College
St. John's, Newfoundland

By Jonathan B. (Grade 12)

At the Tech Trek conference in Gander, nine o'clock Wednesday morning August 20, the early risers in attendance were treated to a science fair unlike any they had ever witnessed. This fair was online, wired. Text, sound, images and video, all digitized and projected onto a screen before their weary eyes.

As if such feats were not enough to impress the computer illiterate, (a group which includes myself - my hamster does the typing), what was truly amazing was that much of the uploading, configuring and discombobulating was done by two students, both of whom are several years younger than yours truly.

Mike and Frank, two students from Gander Middle School, presented the project that had earned them a trip to an international science fair in Louisville, Kentucky. With some help from Frank Shapleigh, the two students also displayed the web site that the three had created to show off the project and the fair.

Their project, named The Smart Couple, was a floating robot controlled by a special computer program. The vessel used two swiveling fans for propulsion and a series of sensors as a guidance system. Through their project, the two students hoped to demonstrate the use of computer controlled sensor guidance systems in the field of robotics.

In 1996, Mike and Frank won three consecutive science fairs at the school, the regional and the national level, earning them an invitation to demonstrate their project at the 1997 regionals and a spot on the ‘Team Canada' contingent for the 1997 International Science and Engineering fair in Louisville, Kentucky last May.

Acting as reporter, their teacher Mr. Shapleigh accompanied the two students to Kentucky to cover the event. The pictures he shot, the video he taped, and the words he wrote were all posted on an Internet site. This site allowed judges at the fair to view footage on the making and findings of the project, and now serves as a resource and inspiration for fellow science buffs.

When asked about their experiences in Kentucky, Mike and Frank said that it was fun and that they gained valuable connections for the future, including several engineers who were interested in their design.

Although what was presented at this session was very impressive and sophisticated, it is only the beginning for science fairs on the web. Mr. Shapleigh said that he hopes to see entirely virtual fairs in the future where the actual competition happens online, which would save a lot of the hassle and money involved in traveling to far-away science fairs.

If you would like to view Frank and Mike's project and footage from their adventures in Kentucky, please visit .

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