Friday, May 15, 2009
7 Awards for Canada today at the Grand Awards
4th place to Taneille Johnson in the Biochemistry Category
4th Place to Christopher Chopcian in the Engineering, Elec & Mech Category
3rd Place to Xingyu Zhou in the Energy and Transportation Category
3rd Place to Zach Elgood in the Environmental Management Category
3rd Place to Abi Uthamacumaran in the Medicine & Health Sciences Category
2nd Place to Nirusan Jayaranjan in the Engineering, Elec & Mech Category
2nd Place to Ratna Varma in the Medicine & Health Sciences Category.
The students were sitting right up front, with lots of flags and cheers. They've had a great week, and really made some great new friendships!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Four Special Awards Tonight.
1. American Association of Physics Teachers - 2nd Prize of $800 to Sayuri
2. IEEE Computer Science Award - 3rd Prize of $350 to Tavian
3. IEEE Computer Science Award - 2nd Prize of $500 to Kent
4. Sierra Nevada College - Full 4 Year Scholarship (valued at $23K per year) to Kent
Our students had front row seats, lots of Canadian thunder sticks, hats, bandanas, etc.
They cheered louder than anyone, and seemed to have a great time.
Today is public viewing day. Each year, approximately 5000 students from Kindergarten through Grade 12 from surrounding schools come to view the fair. It's high energy, and chaos all at the same time! The students have to be at their booths for the morning.
The one restaurant they have all wanted to go to this week is Olive Garden, so we decide to go for a mid-afternoon lunch .. as we're full from breakfast!
Tonight is the Awards ceremony .. there will be another post this evening with all the news. I'm going to try to update live on Twitter .. we'll see how the connection is from inside the arena.
Anyone who has something to put at their display has to do it between 6 am and 7 am (IISEF rules .. trust me .. these aren't the chaperone rules!!). We tell the kids they can go in sweats or whatever, then come back and get dressed. I get down to the lobby at 5:45 to make sure we don't miss anyone .. and the kids start appearing not long after.
The one thing we've learned is that everyone has their "own rhythm" on judging day .. and we try to be as respectful of that as we can. Some like to go early and sit quietly outside, some want to be surrounded by the energy of other people ... some want to practice "just one more time", and yet others want to talk about anything other than their project!
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
We're noticing that the groups are mingling a lot more, and they are not always sitting with the same people. Everyone's getting to know everyone else, and they all seem to be enjoying each other's company.
A number of the students want to practice their presentations again, and a number also have pieces to take to their projects (binders, updates, etc) so we split them up for the morning, asking them to meet us in the lobby at 11, and we'll head to the Historic section of downtown Reno. A number of them ask if they can go to the mall instead, so we decide to let them have that option. At 11, there are five who want to go downtown, and all the rest want to head to the mall! Ray, Gus and Susan take the five downtown, and Liane, Spencer, Caitlin and I head to the mall with the rest. Stef is still with the projects clearing violations with a few of the students.
Downtown Reno is a bit of a disappointment. There was one antique store, an old book store, two souvenir stores and a lot of pawn shops and deserted motels. The group went looking for a skateboard store for Jake, and finally figure out that not only was the store out of business, but it had been knocked down, and was now a parking lot! The group though found a free tour bus ride that took them up to the university, then back down to city centre. Well, after they got on that is. The bus stopped right in front of them and they tried to get on. The driver informed them that she couldn't let them on as that wasn't a real bus stop, and directed them two blocks away to the bus stop, where she drove around a loop to come back and pick them up! Then, as they were all getting on, she closed the rear doors on a passenger, and they had to sit while her supervisor was called and performed an accident investigation.
One of the things we had located before coming was that Circus Circus does free performances. Trying to salvage the day, the group headed over to view the show. But there was nobody there, the stage was dark, and there was no trapeze or other equipment evident. When they went back out to catch the bus, the investigation was over, and the bus had gone. That's when they caught the next one for their short tour. The really funny part was that after they caught the city bus to return to the hotel, it took them on almost the exact same route the tour bus had!
Meanwhile, the other group headed to the mall. One of the ladies that I works with is an avid knitter .. and actually plans some of her vacations around yarn shops. So on our way to the mall, we happened to pass a yarn store that she had talked about. I called her from outside the store to see if there was anything she had wanted, and she said that she had looked on their website and there wasn't. We decided to take a picture of the store just for posterity!
At 2 pm is the Nobel Laureates panel. This year, there were 8 Nobel Laureates in attendance, and the kids have the opportunity to ask questions, meet them, and listen to them talk about their experiences. Jonathan has two of the Laureates sign the shirt that he's wearing. After that, everyone comes back to the hotel to hang out for a little while, and to get ready for the Host City Welcome dinner at the Grand Sierra Hotel.
Dinner was yet another buffet, with a country band for entertainment. Choices were chicken and pot roast .. both of which were pronounced the best buffet of the week! After dinner, the band was playing, but no-one was dancing. Liane got the Canadian gang out on the dance floor, started teaching them grapevine steps, as well as a few others, and made up her own dance with the kids following along. They got a couple of songs in, then, just as others were starting to join them, the band decided it was time to take a one hour break.
We always try to get lunch for judging day organized the night before, so we hand out order forms for subs, and try to get the kids to fill them out. While waiting for everyone to gather, a large game of "Stella-ella-ola" breaks out in the corner. The kids decide they all want to head back to the hotel, so we decide to come back. This picture was taken just before we boarded the bus. A number of them decide to head to the pool for a little relaxation before bed. Curfew is 10 am tonight as tomorrow is judging day.
After breakfast we split up again .. some students having to go back to the convention centre for safety violations, or to put materials that they worked on yesterday at their booths. We set up time slots for each of the students to present their projects to pairs of chaperones who will critique them. Each student has a 20 minute time slot .. 10 minutes to present, and 10 minutes to answer chaperone questions. Spencer and Caitlin took some students, Ray and Susan took another group, and Liane and I had the rest. Stef was helping students at the convention centre, and Gus was "scouting out" some of our next meals!
While we've seen lots of students and chaperones already, tonight at the Opening Ceremonies is the first time that we will all be at the same place at once. A buffet dinner is served, then we all head into the Opening Ceremonies themselves.
Remember though, that when the elbow bump replaces the handshake worldwide, that it all started here at IISEF 2009!
One of the highlights of the night is always the "Shout Out" where representatives from each country go on stage with the posters that they made. Here's a picture of all of the country posters, and the student representatives. The Canadian students had unanimously chosen Claire to represent us after her disqualification from the fair. She was absolutely beaming on stage.
Monday, May 11, 2009
It really took almost the whole day to set up. We would get students started, then move along to the next group. But then one would want to re-do their binder and one had forgotten something, etc, etc. A couple needed to go out and purchase things .. batteries, leads, binders, stands, so we did the usual "divide and conquer" with chaperones and kids and got it all handled. In between, we had a few safety violations to deal with as well. Because we'd had such a huge breakfast, it was past 1 when we realized we hadn't really eaten lunch. So Liane, Spencer and Caitlin grabbed the kids for the luxurious McDonalds lunch, then headed back to the convention centre.
Because of the SRC issue taking up a good part of the day, we hadn't focused on getting our "Shout Out" poster done. Shout Out is one of the highlights of the opening ceremony, where representatives from each country make a poster. At one point in time, each country is announced, and a couple of representatives run on stage with the poster that they have made. It's a loud, colourful and energetic display! So, as is our tradition, we select a student from each of YSC, Montreal and BASEF to go make the poster together. So Claire, Tavian, Jen and Jake came with me to record a 25 second video and make the poster, while the rest of the group went to the Pin Exchange.
Pin exchange is another IISEF tradition. Students bring pins (and other items like pencils, flags, bracelets, etc) representing their city, region, country, and then trade with other students. It's really a brilliant way to get the kids to all meet each other. Jake had also been looking forward to pin trading, so, since our poster was taking a little more time, we let him head over to the pin exchange part way through. Below are Tavian, Jen and Claire with our completed poster.
Yesterday was project set up. It sounds pretty simple .. Go in, set up your project, put out your books. Done. Doesn't always happen that way!
I want to take a step back first for a minute though. First to apologize for the lateness of all of these. We've had some internet connectivity issues here, but have got it figured out now. Secondly, I've used a lot of names, and haven't properly introduced everyone. Many of you know some of us, but not all.
Students here come to represent Canada from three different fairs: YSC - Youth Science Canada holds a "virtual" fair to select 16 students from across Canada. The 16 students chosen that way are Tavian, Christopher, Lia, Claire, Zach, Beth, Mathieu, Emma, Nirusan, Tanielle, Juno, Michael, Ratna, Kent, Xingyu and Jonathan. Chaperones with them are Stef, Spencer, Caitlin and Liane. The second fair is BASEF - Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair. The 4 students from that fair are Andrew, Alex, Romita and Jake. Chaperones with them are Ray and Cathy. The third fair is Montreal. The 4 students from that fair are Sayuri, Stef, Abi and Jen. Chaperones with them are Gus and Susan. But when we get here, we're all one big happy family .. sharing rooms, supporting each other, and all extremely proud to represent the great country of Canada!
So yesterday morning, when we went to check the SRC (Scientific Review Committee) list, we were delighted to see only one name on it from Canada. Usually this simply means that there was a form forgotten, or they have a question of clarification. An appointment is booked, the student and one or two mentors/chaperones accompany them, the question answered, and project set up continues.
So yesterday morning we started out with Stef going to the convention centre with Claire (who had had the violation) and four other students who wanted to make changes to their abstracts.
The rest of us had a more leisurely breakfast, then collected in the lobby to head over with the projects. While on the bus, we had a text from Stef to say that they had had their appointment, and Claire had been disqualified, and that the two of them were going to head back to the hotel.
Rest of us got to the convention centre and started setting up. One of the things we so appreciate about all of these students is how different they all are. Some of them decide to re-do pieces of their projects, some discover missing pieces, etc. So the chaperones set about just walking from student to student, checking in with each, supporting them with what they need then moving on.
When Stef returned, we put our heads together to see if there were any grounds for an appeal for Claire. The issue was an ethical one. She had performed a procedure that is legal for her to do in Canada, but is not in the US. The IISEF rules follow the US rules. So while her paperwork was all complete, and appropriate for a Canadian competition, it was not going to stand up here.
What we needed was a specialist in a very particular area .. single cell neuroscience research on vertebrae animals. Coincidentally, we happen to have one of those on our BASEF SRC committee. He has 7 years of Post-Doc in the US, but obtained his PhD in Canada, so is familiar with the rules on both sides of the border. We called him at home on a Sunday afternoon, and he spent five hours working with us to draft an appeal letter. The appeal interview, however, was not successful. Claire, however, is a remarkable young lady, who took the news with grace and poise, well beyond her years. While disappointed, she understands the issue, and it's a lesson from the school of hard knocks for sure.
We're heading to breakfast now, but I'll post more about the rest of the day a little later.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Well .. we had our last meeting at Dofasco last night before heading out to Reno this coming Saturday morning. Handed out jackets, trading pins, double checked paperwork, discussed how to pack all the "weird and wacky" things that we're taking with us .. and tried to hypnotize everyone into remembering their mantra for the week ... "GET A RECEIPT".
Their presentations were amazing .. everyone has worked hard on upgrading backboards, binders, and elevator speeches.
We will be meeting 16 of the other students (the ones chosen by YSC) at the airport on Saturday morning. We're all on the same flight to Chicago. We then meet up with the 4 students chosen from the Montreal Regional Fair in Chicago, and we're all on the same flight to Reno. Might I apologize ahead of time to anyone on that flight who is not with IISEF!?
Here they are in front of Alex and Andrew's project. The "glow" from the LED lights is making them all look a little red ....