SARSEF

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Published Wednesday February 22, 2023

From the SARSEF CEO: Why Should You Judge or Volunteer at the SARSEF Science and Engineering Fair? Here are just a few reasons out of thousands.

By Julie Euber, CEO, SARSEF 

Did you know? Last year, SARSEF Regional Science and Engineering Fair showcased the work of 6,558 students. What better reason to judge or volunteer than to impact the confidence level and career trajectory of thousands of students? 

At this year’s fair, you will have the flexibility to select the volunteer or judge opportunity that best fits your interests and scheduling needs. But before I share more on that, here are just a few other reasons you should sign up to judge or volunteer: 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 10.8% increase in employment in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations from 2021 to 2031 compared to a 4.9% increase for non-STEM careers. And – the median annual wage for STEM careers is more than double that of non-STEM careers (BLS data). 

Every student should feel confident when considering their options in STEM fields. Not only does this open up a diversity of high paying, quality career possibilities for them, but it also supports the future of our growing STEM-based industries in the state. Unfortunately, less than 30% of students view themselves as a “science person,” and that number is even lower for groups underrepresented in STEM occupations. 

It’s been shown that educational programming can turn that statistic around and help students see themselves as the rock star scientists and engineers they truly are. SARSEF is no exception. In fact, 85% of last year’s SARSEF Fair participants said that completing their Science and Engineering Fair project encouraged them to think about a STEM major in college and/or a career in STEM fields. 

To run a fair as large as ours, we need hundreds of volunteers and judges to step up and volunteer their time and talents to the incredible youth of Southern Arizona. As one of those volunteers or judges, you could be the one who helps a student recognize their own potential.

Julie learns about 2022 ISEF finalist Yaritza Durazo’s research project

The power of a supportive adult that takes a student’s science and engineering project seriously should never be underestimated.

Think back to a time when a supportive adult took notice of you and your potential. When someone took a simple moment to let you know that you just might have a knack for something. Supportive relationships with others are important to our health and well-being no matter our age or background. 

At the SARSEF Fair, you get to actively listen to a student talk about a project that matters to them. You can encourage students while still giving constructive feedback that shows you are taking them and their work seriously. You can be proof that they do have connections to an exciting STEM field and that they can work in or care about science and engineering just like you do. A single judging interview, a single interaction with a volunteer could be the inspiration a student needs to reach for their goals. 

IT’S FUN

If you want to feel hopeful about future, this is your event! With SARSEF, students don’t have to wait to become scientists or engineers. With curiosity as their guide, they can start asking questions they care about and use science and engineering to find solutions that are meaningful to them, and even, the world. Being witness to their enthusiasm, dedication, and innovation can be truly awe-inspiring. 

I remember my first experience judging at a science fair. Some students eagerly sought my eye contact because they were so excited to tell me all about their work. Others were shy, but once they started talking, their enthusiasm shone through. Once I get through the phase of the interview where students are shaking off their nerves, I find that conversation gets easy and that it’s a privilege to get to learn from them. 

Julie co-chairing the Biomedical and Health Sciences Category at the 2017 ISEF in Los Angeles, California.

You can make a difference in a week, a day, or less. 

Depending on your schedule and goals, you can volunteer with us for a few weeks, a day or a few hours. There are so many ways to participate! Here’s the rundown:

Elementary School and Middle School Judging: Elementary School judging and interviews for the 2023 SARSEF will be held virtually over Zoom. The schedule is as follows: 

  • Attend a virtual training Tuesday, February 28 at 6pm or Wednesday, March 1 at 8:00am. 
  • Review your list of projects through our online project floor. The project floor opens at noon on Saturday, March 4. 
  • Determine winning projects with your caucus over Zoom on Monday, March 6 (Elementary: 1:00-3:00pm; Middle: 2:00-4:00pm). 
  • Plan on attending at least one interview session with students over Zoom. They will take place from 4:00-6:00pm on Monday, March 6 as well as 9:00-11:00am the following day. 

High School Judging: High School judging will take place in-person in the grand ballroom at the Student Union on the University of Arizona campus. The schedule is as follows: 

  • Attend a virtual training Wednesday, March 1 at 6:00pm or Thursday, March 2 at 8:00am. 
  • Review projects in your category ahead of time through our online project floor. The project floor opens at noon on Saturday, March 4. 
  • Interviews and caucusing to determine winners will take place on Wednesday, March 8. Timing depends on your category, so please refer to the link below to find out when you would judge. 
  • Judges at the high school level should be professionals in their fields (at least three to five years of experience is preferred) and/or be in the process of obtaining or hold advanced (master’s or doctoral) degrees. Middle school judges should hold a bachelor’s degree, and have some experience in their field, or teach in the selected area. Elementary school judges must have a high school education, with some experience with the age level selected, and/or interest in the field selected. 

Register to judge at the SARSEF Fair: https://sarsef.org/volunteers/judges/ 

General Event Volunteering: Beyond judging, we also have a great need for general event volunteers who can ensure all goes smoothly for our student participants and their teachers and caregivers. In the week before the Fair (February 27 through March 3) we’ll need volunteers assisting us virtually to confirm projects follow our display and safety guidelines. During the Fair, you can support in-person high school interviews on March 8 or our Community Expo and Awards Ceremony March 10 through 11. 

Register to volunteer at the SARSEF Fair: https://sarsef.org/volunteers/general-volunteers/ 

Don’t have the time to give? Plan to volunteer but want to do more? You can also consider giving a sponsored award or donating directly to our fair efforts. 

See you at the SARSEF Fair!