Science fair to showcase bright young minds

This weekend, more than 100 Sussex County students will strut their scientific stuff at the 20th annual Sussex County Science Fair, to be held at the Biden Center in Cape Henlopen State Park. Many of the students are winners from their own middle- and high-schools, and their projects cover the spectrum of scientific study.

“The purpose is to allow students outside of their school setting to show the community the kinds of things that they’re doing,” explained organizer Lew Killmer. “They value their work.”

Science fairs teach young students the scientific process, from creating hypotheses to planning projects, and allow older students to develop independent research projects. They might grow fungi, psychologically study their classmates or work with artificial intelligence.

Besides allowing students a time to shine, the fair connects kids with scientific careers. Scientific industries often award scholarships, special prizes and internships at the fairs.

By the time students reach the Delaware Valley Science Fair – the next stop for winners of the county science fair – Killmer said, the quality and level of work rivals what he did as a chemistry and pharmaceutical researcher.

“You would absolutely be amazed,” Killmer said. “I’m amazed every year, and I’ve been doing this for years.”

Now in its 20th year, the Sussex County Science Fair was once endangered when Delaware Technical and Community College, where the fair originated, was unable to continue the tradition. Current science fair director Helen Gieske said volunteers “who really wanted our kids to do research” took responsibility for the fair and kept it going at Cape Henlopen.

“A lot of kids found that their projects turned out to be very valuable to them,” Gieske said.

From earning internships to wowing potential universities, the students can concretely benefit from their scientific experience.

The Sussex County Science Fair will be open to the public from 4 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 4, Gieske said.

Projects will be judged early Monday, March 5, and awards will be presented at a luncheon that afternoon. Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and representatives of U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons will attend the award ceremony, and the senators themselves may make an appearance. Top scorers in the fair will be eligible for the Delaware Valley Science Fair in Philadelphia, Pa., in April.