Every child. Thinking critically. Solving problems.


SARSEF Fair award winners have been announced!

See the winner list

Meet the 2024 ISEF Finalists and Observers Selected at the SARSEF Regional Science and Engineering Fair

ISEF is well underway, and this year, SARSEF has a group of 11 students attending to present their research.

Nine high school students were awarded a Finalist spot at ISEF during the 2024 SARSEF Regional Fair in March:

  • Auhona Shil (University High School, Tucson, AZ) – Every day, humans are producing cancer cells but not everyone is developing cancer. One reason this could be happening is due to the phenomenon: mutational meltdown. The theory is that cancer cells develop so many mutations that they lose their fitness (survival and reproductive ability) to reproduce in the next generation. I am using population genetics and biochemistry tools to understand what the most harmful mutations are. From there, I am trying to understand how those cancer cells can be killed with the evolutionary process, mutational meltdown, which will help prevent the recurrence of cancer.
  • Finnegan McGill (Tanque Verde High School, Tucson, AZ) – Bird populations are declining worldwide. Ornithologists need quality data to understand why. A-BiRD is an automated bird recognition device. It uses a specific program to identify bird species and its own computer code and algorithms for direction finding and cueing. A-BiRD collects, processes, and analyzes data, day and night, 24/7, with consistent methods and without human intervention. A-BiRD is like a superhero for bird research.
  • Humberto Gil Villalobos and Michael Castro (Harvest Preparatory Academy, Yuma, AZ) –  Our project is making a weed barrier that can get rid of harmful bugs that is safe for the earth and people. The barrier stops bad plants from growing and repels bad insects.
  • Jimmy Kwon (BASIS Tucson North, Tucson, AZ) – When you open up deliveries at your doorstep, you will notice that they are mostly empty. My project uses a set of cameras, code, and artificial intelligence to quickly choose a different, smaller box, leading to less trashed cardboard.
  • Julianna Serna (Harvest Preparatory Academy, Yuma, AZ) – My project is aiming to make a bioplastic from the waste of corn and algae. By using these natural ingredients, my bioplastic will be able to help decrease plastic pollution and therefore help the environment because it will be stronger, fight bacteria, degrade and melt faster compared to a normal plastic.
  • Katherine Lam (University High School, Tucson, AZ) – I designed fluorescent nanoparticles to monitor intracellular signaling cascades. In other words, I used super-small, glowing submicron particles to take real-time images of living cells. I ultimately found that coating particles with a substance known as TMOS, or tetramethylorthosilicate, could produce highly water-stable and optically efficient nanoparticles.
  • Maritza Roberts (BASIS Tucson North, Tucson, AZ) – Two native saltbush seeds, Atriplex lentiformis and Atriplex canescens, showed that they can withstand very toxic concentrations of Zinc concentrations, while also sprouting under low nutrient exposure. Then, these seeds can be planted on soil contaminated by Zinc from mining waste, and once their roots grow, the shrubs stabilize the soil, reducing the spread of metal into our water, soil, and air.
  • Sohini Mallick (University High School, Tucson, AZ) – I am looking at how our bodies create a barrier to protect us from harmful bacteria.

We asked our ISEF finalists to share about their experiences in research.

What was the first science or engineering project you ever did?

The first project I ever created that really engaged with science was in 7th grade, back when I still studied in my school in Sonora, Mexico. I created a project that focused on explaining how chemistry element differences cause flames to burn different colors, and related this to emission spectra. – Maritza Roberts

As a little boy aggravated by the amount of bug bites I woke up to, I was captivated by the idea of capturing these pests. Seeing multiple blog posts explaining that the reaction of baking soda and vinegar attracts bugs, I rushed to the pantry and developed the mixture in a large plastic bottle. Although this science project never actually captured any bugs, the process of constructing my own scientific contraption was thrilling and ultimately piqued my interest in STEM projects. – Jimmy Kwon

I’ve participated in SARSEF and AZSEF since 6th Grade, researching different topics in Chemistry, Engineering, Animal Science, Computational Biology and Informatics. My very first project was a study on bacteria. I swabbed different surfaces at my school, nursed the bacteria in a warm environment on agar plates, and found out that the door handle of my school’s front office was actually more contaminated than the door handle of the boys’ bathroom! I also discovered that chemical cleaners with higher bleach content get rid of bacteria more efficiently than organic or vinegar-based cleaners. – Finnegan McGill

What is your advice for students just starting out in science or engineering projects?

My advice for students just starting a project is to do what makes you happy and what you enjoy. The reason is that otherwise, you will find it difficult to do research and finish your project. You will get bored of it. – Michael Castro

Science is mostly problem-solving. During whatever project you are doing, you will face many challenges, and you might even have to start over again. But instead of feeling frustrated, think about it as a way to look at the problem from a new perspective you may not have considered, and stay consistent until you can solve the problem. Science is also a collaboration of multiple ideas. Discuss your project with other people to gain their insights on it, because they may look at your project from a different aspect and provide you with solutions you may never have thought of, or give you new ideas to expand your project even more. – Sohini Mallick

Go in expecting science to be nonlinear. The Scientific Method always seems so cut and dried: you ask a question, form a hypothesis, design an experiment, etc. However, it doesn’t account for the countless hours spent doing background research, or troubleshooting equipment, or completely rejecting hypotheses. That’s all part of the learning process, and it’s honestly part of what makes science so thoroughly rewarding. Each setback is an opportunity to grow. – Katherine Lam

My advice is to seek mentorship if you are able to. If you have any clubs or classes at your school where you might be able to have a mentor on your subject, or perhaps even a teacher you know well, talk to them if they might be able to mentor you with your research, because professional feedback never hurts. Always take advantage of any mentorship opportunities you come across with, I assure you they will make a difference. Another advice I would give other young students who are on their pathway to success in STEM, is to always trust your capacity to succeed. If your project is about something you are truly passionate about and something that you care for, you should fight for it and believe in it.  Even if you are not incredibly good in the subject, there is always time and space to learn! ­– Julianna Serna

What was the most exciting moment of doing your project, and what was the most challenging?

The most exciting moment of doing my project was when I had to think outside the box in order to answer my research question. I learned that I had to intersect my tools and use a little piece from many scientific fields including statistics, biochemistry, population genetics, and oncology. The most challenging part of my project was developing my research question because it was hard to narrow down what I wanted to do specifically. – Auhona Shil

The most exciting part of my project was molding the bioplastic into the plastic cutlery, especially the spoons! We utilized a silicone mold used to make chocolate spoons, and while I was pouring the bioplastic formula into the molds I felt like a cook who was doing some sort of dessert; the entire process was very fun. The most challenging part for me was utilizing the statistical analysis programs, like the Image J program. Even though this is my third year working with this project, it still gets a little challenging to get used to them again at the beginning. However, after my mentor goes through the whole process with me, I get used to it and it becomes easier. – Julianna Serna

The most exciting moments were definitely the times when I learned something new and could actually apply my knowledge to my project, including some of the engineering, the technology, the computer coding, and the data processing. I knew nothing about these areas before starting my project and I still cannot quite believe how far I’ve come by learning, not giving up, and finding the answers to my many questions. There were so many big challenges that I faced. Creating A-BiRD was a tough journey filled with technical issues and handling lots of data. I had to learn the necessary advanced math and coding from scratch, troubleshoot problems quickly, and refine the system to detect bird sounds in natural places. I mentored my two younger brothers so they could help me with the huge data processing. I felt like giving up many times, but I persevered and learned the importance of continuous improvement. My family and really caring neighbors were key factors in overcoming the difficulties. They all believed in me and my ideas and helped me through tough times. They always cheered me on and asked good questions that made me think further. Their support meant everything to me. – Finnegan McGill

The most exciting and challenging parts of my project revolve around the coding aspect. It’s impossible for me to point to one specific part of the code as challenging because, frankly, a lot of it was challenging. Instead, I would point to the daily grind, marked by a series of long nights and early mornings, as the most challenging aspect of this project. However, the sheer happiness and excitement that results from the code outputting the desired outcome makes the entire process so, so worth it. – Jimmy Kwon

Is there anything else you would want to share in a blog post about you and your fellow ISEF finalists?

ISEF is one of my favorite experiences ever! The people you meet, the events, the food (!!!) are so memorable, and I will always be grateful to SARSEF for this experience! – Jimmy Kwon

As a Mexicana and Latina in STEM, I understand the importance of visibility in a field where many other BIPOC students have been historically underrepresented in. On YouTube and Instagram I direct content on @maritzastudies, leading a podcast titled Cientifica Discussions, which highlights current high school trailblazers that have diverse science interests. These students are Latinas in STEM who have won international and national distinctions for their work in fields like astrophysics, biology, neuroscience, computer science, entrepreneurship, and chemistry. Ultimately, each Latine student shares how they have achieved success and describes their non-linear path within science. – Maritza Roberts

The first science fair project that I completed in my local science fair was in 6th grade. After moving to Tucson, I was amazed by the majestic Saguaro Cacti. However, on my second day of school, I saw three students puncturing cacti with their pencils. That year, I conducted a research project to explore how bacterial necrosis in Saguaro cactus develops and created a claymation video which I showcased to other classes. This was the first time that I began seeing science as a solution to help the community. Since then, I have done SARSEF projects on everything from environmental science to gender/ethnic studies through bioinformatics. No matter what branch of science I am researching, I always see science as a way to solve problems and positively impact our community. With this mindset, I have been able to be proud and wholeheartedly satisfied with the work that I continue to do. – Auhona Shil

Being an ISEF finalist is one of my biggest achievements and greatest honors. Preparing for the competition taught me how to talk about science in an effective way and how important time management and practice is. My fellow ISEF finalists are amazing and such experts in their fields. It’s quite intimidating to think about! During this experience I have made a lot of connections with others and I have become more confident. Meeting other researchers motivated me and gave me new ideas. I made great friends and felt like part of a community. The experience at SARSEF, AZSEF, JSHS, and now ISEF has made me feel like a real scientist and researcher for the first time. – Finnegan McGill

For the first time in five years, SARSEF is also sending two top 8th graders to ISEF as student observers. Noemi Celani (Emily Gray Middle School, Tucson, AZ) and Alexis Batres (R Pete Woodard Jr High School, Yuma, AZ) won the top middle school project awards at the SARSEF Fair, winning the SARSEF Excellence in Research and SARSEF Board of Directors Community Impact Award, respectively, which include an all-expenses paid trip to ISEF. We asked our middle school observers a few questions about their research as well.

Please explain your project to someone who does not have a science background.

My project was finding what medication was best for people that have Adrenal Insufficiency. – Alexis Batres

I looked at the way plants communicate, and how they react to different companion plants to support their growth. I gave a study plant’s roots a choice between another plant (this could be the same species as the study plant, a native and compatible plant, or a compatible but not native plant), or a pot with just soil. My findings contradict what was previously known about plant’s growing habits (that they will always move away from each other), but instead suggests that plants are specific in their growing habits and will make decisions based on the type of neighbor next to them.  – Noemi Celani  

What is your advice for students just starting out in science or engineering projects?

I would say never give up. It may be challenging, you may never win anything, but do the project for your love and curiosity of the subject, do it to learn something. – Noemi Celani

What was the most exciting moment of doing your project, and what was the most challenging?

The most exciting moment of doing my project was testing the pH of the gastric juice after letting the pill set in the juice for 30 minutes. – Alexis Batrea

I think the most exciting thing was doing the results, turning numbers into something that shows plant growing habits. I think the most challenging thing was the weather. Since I was working with plants I could not predict that there was going to be a huge hail storm killing two of my plants.   – Noemi Celani

In this video, ISEF observer Noemi Celani captures the moment that ISEF Finalists selected at the SARSEF Fair leave the judging floor.

2024 SARSEF Fair Winners List

Congratulations to all of our SARSEF Winners!

Please join us Saturday, March 9, outdoors at Reid Park for the Community STEM Expo and Awards Ceremonies

  • 10:00a Elementary (Grades PreK-5) Awards Ceremony
  • 11:00am-2:00p STEM exhibitor booths and Food Trucks open!
  • 1:30p Middle and High School (Grades 6-12) Awards Ceremony

Winning Projects

(listed by school)

This list is best viewed on a desktop computer.

Award names will not be published until Tuesday, March 12.

Educator and School Awards

Education Advocate of Science and Engineering  

  • Abraham Delos Reyes, Sonoran Science Academy – East, Teacher
  • Jennifer Stretton, Robert Richardson Elementary School, Teacher
  • Jessica Dietrich, Flowing Wells High School, Teacher
  • Jessica Howe, My Future AZ, Community Advocate
  • José Daniel Castro Cisneros, Community Advocate
  • Lara Huetter, Emily Gray Junior High, Teacher
  • Lindsay Wong, Winifred Harelson Elementary School, Teacher
  • Lucio Sanchez, San Luis High School, Teacher
  • Melinda Bejarano, Billy Lane Lauffer Middle School, Teacher
  • Michaela Rodrigues, Innovation Academy, Teacher
  • Norma Loreto, PPEP Raul Castro Learning Center Douglas, Teacher
  • Nova Kline, Rosemarie Rivera Elementary School, Drexel Elementary, Teacher
  • Renee El Onache, Billy Lane Lauffer Middle School, Teacher
  • Robin Kropp, Sonoran Desert Museum, Community Advocate
  • Sarah Hitchings, J. Robert Hendricks Elementary School, Teacher
  • Sharon Christie, Center for Academic Success – Douglas, Teacher

SARSEF Champion Educator of Science and Engineering  

  • Elyse Wexler, University High School, Teacher
  • Jason Flora, Kofa High School, Teacher
  • Kimberly Smith, Holaway Elementary School, Teacher
  • Pam Vandivort, Keeling Elementary School, Teacher
  • Rebecca Bhasme, Willcox Middle School, Teacher
  • Ty White, Willcox High School, Teacher

SARSEF Teacher Award 

  • Kathleen Barrett, Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind, Teacher
  • Hennessy Miller, Sunnyside High School, Teacher

Hogan Energy Hero Award

  • Brooke Earl, Leman Academy of Excellence K-8 – East Tucson
  • Betsey Deevers, Vail Academy and High School
  • Kelly Smith, Esperero Canyon Middle School
  • Mari Echols, Cibola High School
  • Jacko Mabeza, Harvest Preparatory Academy

Alex and Laura Schauss Teacher Award 

Rachelle Ferris, Innovation Academy

Top Schools

  • Emily Meschter Early Learning Center
  • Helen Keeling Elementary School
  • Emily Gray Junior High
  • University High School

Meet our High School Interview Day Keynote Speakers

This year, SARSEF Regional Science and Engineering Fair will be hosting a college and career fair during high school interview day. There be exhibits from local companies and colleges, networking sessions with peers, and keynote speakers. We are excited to announce the following keynote speakers:

Track A Speakers

William Hendricks, Ph.D.

From his vantage point as a translational cancer scientist, Dr. Will Hendricks has observed the tremendous positive impact of the human cancer precision medicine revolution of the past 20 years. Motivated by his personal experiences with cancer in pets and the distress that comes with having very little information to help guide decisions on how best to help them, Will has been driven to bring precision medicine innovation to veterinary oncology. Dr. Hendricks is the Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Vidium Animal Health and an Assistant Professor of Integrated Cancer Genomics at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, Arizona. He completed doctoral and postdoctoral training at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Cellular and Molecular Medicine under the mentorship of leaders who have been shifting human cancer treatment paradigms. In 2013, Dr. Hendricks established a laboratory at TGen focused on canine and human cancer precision medicine. He has worked with a broad collaborative network to perform seminal genome landscaping studies in dog cancers and drive the development of new treatments and diagnostics for dogs with cancer. He founded Vidium Animal Health in 2020 to accelerate the translation of genomic discoveries into the veterinary clinic.

Meagan Bethel

Meagan is a Wildlife Specialist at Sky Island Alliance and manages the wildlife camera data and teaches the public about wildlife and their identification through communications and graphic design. Meagan was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona and competed at SARSEF through her school days, which fostered her interest in wildlife conservation. Meagan has volunteered with Sky Island Alliance since 2011 and now works with us as a full-time employee. In 2019, she graduated with a B.S. from the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources with an emphasis on wildlife conservation and management.

Track B Speakers

Jeannette Maré, Ph.D.

Jeannette Maré, PhD, is the Director of the Science of Kindness Community Collective at the University of Arizona. Her path to becoming a community-engaged kindness scholar was a long and winding one. Jeannette’s world changed drastically after the sudden death of her son in 2002. In the incredible grief of losing Ben, learning and sharing about the lifesaving, world-changing power of kindness became her sole focus. With her heart broken open, she founded Ben’s Bells, a nonprofit that inspires and teaches the intentional practice of kindness. Now, as a research professor, Jeannette is working with university faculty, staff, and students, and with community members and organizations, to develop a theoretically based and empirically informed model that will guide a community-wide effort to create a culture of kindness learning and practice.

Dante Lauretta, Ph.D.

Dr. Dante S. Lauretta, a Regents Professor at the University of Arizona, is a pioneering scientist renowned for his groundbreaking contributions to planetary science and astrobiology. Leading the NASA OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, he successfully collected samples from the asteroid Bennu, offering profound insights into solar system formation. Dr. Lauretta’s research spans solar system origins, Earth’s habitability, life’s origins, and the connection between life and consciousness. His commitment to mentoring the next generation of scientists and establishing the Arizona Astrobiology Center reflects his dedication to scientific excellence. As a passionate science communicator, he engages with the public and collaborates globally, working with a diverse group of researchers to tackle science’s biggest questions.

SARSEF Fair Shirt Designs from Local Artists

Every year, SARSEF celebrates the SARSEF Regional Science and Engineering Fair by releasing a new t-shirt design. For the last three years, local artists have been commissioned to create a design that captures the spirit of the event from their perspective. Many SARSEF Fair projects center around exploring solutions to local issues or being curious about natural environments or dark skies across Arizona. We wanted our shirt designs to mirror this connection that many students make between science, engineering, and their own lives and community.

In 2022, Julie Bonner took Southern Arizona to space, reminding students to reach for the stars. Her design was the first in our local artist series. Last year, Isaac Caruso featured a robot searching the skies for science-themed constellations. Isaac’s shirt design will still be available in the SARSEF store this year if you missed out last year.

This year, Derrick “Deersinger” Gonzales has created the newest SARSEF shirt that showcases how science can foster community and a connection to nature. Don’t miss the SARSEF Awards and Expo on Saturday, March 9, 10:00 am-3:30 pm at Reid Park, where you can view and purchase this year’s shirt!

More about this Year’s Artist, Derrick “Deersinger” Gonzales in his own words:

Deersinger is the traditional name I was given, but you can also call me Derrick. I’m from the Tohono O’odham Nation. It’s located in Sells, Arizona. To me it’s the motherland, I’m part Pascua Yaqui and Pima Maricopa as well. As a child, I’ve always been fascinated with the world and every living thing within it. Seeing the beautiful landscapes when it’s green to when it’s brown, the wonderful smells of food and rain, hearing traditional songs to modern music, feeling the wind breeze the hot the cold, my family says pencils, crayons or markers seemed to always be in my hand when I was younger.

During seven years of messing around with colors, drawing figures, creating characters and pulling from different elements at the traditional ceremonies helped my foundation. Growing up in the urban culture as I went to high school sparked my attitude. Freethinking had an influence on my art style getting messy with spray paint, paint markers and social adventures. It helped me a lot by understanding who I am and what kind of impact I can make and the voice I have.

Attending an art university just boosted my passion for the important things in life which I always had around me like community, history, culture, and native ecological science. Gathering these main life markers as well as gaining knowledge helped my growth as these factors entered my path. It’s a blessing and brings me joy sharing with others expressing what I’m capable of showcasing skills I learned within art. Because that’s how it was a long time ago. Helping, encouraging, standing with one another comes from the heart.

Being older, having these experiences and the new things I will learn goes to show that nothing’s impossible, displaying myself through images, explaining what I know, what I found out and learned, teaching in a new way, showing examples of what the people did and the skills they had/have. Exercise the mind to push one another for the future of our little ones, on how to take care of mother earth, and show honor and pay respect to the ones that were here before us. Live in the present, learn, have fun, understand, use good communication skills and help one another. Look towards the future and figure out how to sustain what we have.

That is why I’m so excited to be able to express myself in this creative way to be that tool to showcase all the beautiful minds and talents we have living in this world with us. To the people, animals, family, food, plants, ceremonies, tools, traditional homes, games, weapons, songs. Every living thing on this earth. Helping in this good way to be who I’m becoming as a Native human being: an artist, rebel, student, brother, son, cousin, father, friend, classmate, teacher, an individual that helps others, using my skills to showcase my creative spirit. Wanting you to do the same – tap in. Thank you, Deersinger.

What’s the Deal with Sponsored Awards?

By Dani Wright, SARSEF Director of Events and Volunteers; SARSEF Fair Director

All About 2024’s Sponsored Awards

For many Southern Arizona students, the first check they ever receive is from the SARSEF Regional Science and Engineering Fair. This might be through the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Place Grand Awards, but there is an additional award designation that provides over 400 additional awards at the SARSEF Fair!

Sponsored Awards are given to students from over 100 individuals, businesses, clubs, and organizations, highlighting the important work these young scientists and engineers are performing. By contributing an award or prize to a student at the SARSEF Regional Science and Engineering Fair, they inspire students to pursue career paths in science, technology, engineering, and math fields that matter to them!

Award sponsors can select the awards they want to give to a student. Whether it be a cash award, merchandise, trophies, or a scholarship, the sponsor determines what they’re able to give and what criteria are important to determine a winner. Sponsors can ask SARSEF to choose the winners for their award — or they can do the judging themselves. Many organizations opt to have their own employees judge projects and/or interview students on judging day and make the selection on the organization’s behalf.

Sponsored Awards encourage students to become future leaders. Many students see themselves for the first time as scientists and engineers as they receive their awards. They start to believe in themselves when someone else shows they believe in them!

Who can give a sponsored award?

The short answer is…anyone! We’ve had a classroom of students give a sponsored award. We’ve had families give sponsored awards in honor of loved ones (including pets) who have passed. We’ve had organizations give to raise awareness about their field and its future workforce. There are so many reasons to be that spark of enthusiasm and confidence in a SARSEF Fair participant’s life.

DaNel Hogan, Chief Learning Officer at the Waters Center for Systems Thinking, is known for being an impactful advocate for students and educators in STEM education, and giving Sponsored Awards is one of the many ways she pursues that.

The Hogan Energy Hero sponsored awards started with support from an energy education leadership award I won back in 2015 from the Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) Initiative. I used some of the $8000 in funding that came with this award to start the Hogan Energy Hero sponsored award. After five years, the funding set aside to support that award was used up but I had to keep it going with my own funds, and it has been worth every penny,” DaNel shared.

DaNel isn’t the only award sponsor who has made the SARSEF Fair an annual tradition. In fact, some of our award sponsors have been giving awards at the Fair since it started in 1955! Consider if this is the year to start a tradition of your own.

DaNel continued to say “sponsored awards are a satisfying way to recognize the creativity and innovation of our community’s young scientists and engineers. Whether $50, $50,000, or anything in between, sponsored awards feed the STEM identities of the brilliant minds we need to develop so they can unleash the creative solutions and ideas locked inside their heads. I am happy to be a small part of what makes the SARSEF Science and Engineering Fair so great – its support and development of our community’s critical thinkers and problem solvers.

Are you ready to give sponsored awards at the SARSEF Fair? This year, we are accepting awards to give at the Fair until March 1, 2024!

From a Board Member: Explore the Wonders of SARSEF – Become a Judge or Volunteer!

By Maricela Rivera, Board Member, SARSEF; Distribution Engineer II, Trico Electric Cooperative

Hello, I’m Maricela Rivera, a recent addition to the SARSEF Board. Although my title may be new, my connection to SARSEF runs deep. Back in elementary school, I was an eager participant in the SARSEF fair, participating in numerous class and individual projects.

I remember my last individual SARSEF project was in 5th grade. I evaluated the permeability of a birthday balloon using various substances: air, water, helium, and vegetable oil.  Participating in the fair encouraged my passion for science.  I went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Biosystems Engineering from the University of Arizona and work as an Engineer at Trico Electric Cooperative.

Fast forward to today, and I’m not merely reminiscing about those early days; I’m actively contributing to SARSEF. Last year, I had the pleasure of judging elementary and high school projects. Witnessing the creativity and enthusiasm of young minds brought back memories of my own journey. Those moments reignited my passion, inspiring me to do more. I found myself volunteering for a board position.

My journey has come full circle, and it’s a thrill to be part of an organization that played a role in shaping my love for science. Reflecting on my experiences, I encourage each one of you to explore the wonders of SARSEF.  Sign up to be a judge or volunteer at the fair. Discover the joy of science for yourself! Your active participation could be the spark that ignites a passion in the next generation of young scientists.

From a Board Member: Volunteer for this Year’s SARSEF Fair and Witness Arizona’s Critical Thinkers in Action!

By Casey Carrillo, Board Secretary, SARSEF; Director of Strategic Partnerships, University of Arizona Center for Innovation

My name is Casey Carrillo and I serve on SARSEF’s Board of Directors. I have been involved as a board member for two years. My sister is a fourth-grade teacher, and the passion that she has for education is contagious. I wanted to get involved with an organization that truly supports educators and students in Southern Arizona.

Being involved with SARSEF has allowed me to share my passion to help support Arizona’s critical thinkers. Last year, I had the opportunity to serve as a judge for SARSEF’s science fair and I learned about renewable energy and sustainability projects that high schoolers from all over Southern Arizona completed. It was inspiring to learn about the different projects – they were truly out of this world. Being able to see how passionate students are about renewable energy and sustainability is inspiring for me because it correlates directly with my day job.

I am the Director of Strategic Partnerships with the University of Arizona Center for Innovation, and we work with science and tech startups. I specifically work with renewable energy companies, and to see the pipeline of students in this space was exciting. I encourage you to volunteer for this year’s science fair and witness Arizona’s critical thinkers in action! Sign up today.

2024 SARSEF Regional Fair High School Interviews – What do you need to know?


High School project requirements remain the same as when we began requiring digital project submissions in 2021. This allows the judges to review projects in advance and judge more thoroughly. Project registration and all uploads are due February 25, 2024 at 11:59pm.  

For information about High School project requirements, please see the high school project checklist:


High School interviews are in-person for 202

Interviews are required and will take place at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Innovation Building on Thursday, March 7, from 9:00a-3:30p. The day will include interviews with judges as well as category networking sessions and keynote speakers similar to those held at the International Science and Engineering Fair. Students will have the opportunity to connect with other students in their category as well as STEM professionals in a related discipline. Lunch will be provided for all students. Please review all of the following information as you plan for this exciting day! 

Time and location 

Thursday, March 7, 2024, 9:00a-3:30p

UArizona Health Sciences Innovation Building (HSIB)

1670 E Drachman St

Tucson, AZ 85721

Parking and transportation

  • Parking is limited at UA. We recommend getting dropped off or carpooling if possible. Dropoffs can be at the HSIB roundabout on Drachman, east of Cherry.
  • If parking is necessary, the Highland Street garage is the nearest parking structure. The cost is $2/hr with a $16 daily maximum.  
  • If you need parking for a bus or oversized vehicle, you can park on National Championship Drive. You will need to email us the following information by Tuesday, March 5:
    • Number of buses
    • Name of the school
    • Time frame
    • Each bus driver’s contact information

Preparation — What to bring

Upon arrival, each student will be provided with a blank tri-fold project board and a color printout of their virtual project slides. During project set-up time, they will locate their board and arrange the printed project on their board using the supplies provided. Additionally, students may bring a laptop with simulations, physical models, prototypes, their lab journal, their project pdf, etc., to showcase and aid in the interview. Students may not print their own presentation posters or create their own project board ahead of time. They also may not bring additional title cards or any other materials to attach to the boards. This is to ensure that the judges are seeing the same project they have already reviewed prior to the interviews.

Note: Project boards are being created for ease of reference only. The digital slide deck will have already been reviewed and is the sole basis of any display score found on the judging criteria sheet. Students will not be marked down if their board is not assembled.  

If students choose to bring in a laptop, physical models, prototypes, etc., these materials must follow all Display and Safety Rules, or they will not be permitted.  


8:00-9:00 Check-in, Health Sciences Innovation Building (HSIB)

8:00-9:30 Project set-up (all categories)

All students will check in and then follow the schedule of their appropriate track based on their category.

Track A


  • Applied Technology  
  • Behavioral and Social Sciences
  • Chemistry  
  • Environmental Studies  
  • Physics and Astronomy  
  • Sustainability and Renewable Energy   

8:00-9:00 Check-in, Health Sciences Innovation Building (HSIB)

8:00-9:30 Project set-up (all categories)

10:00-12:00 Interviews

12:00-12:30 Track A Open House

12:30-1:30 Lunch/Career Fair

1:30-2:15 Keynote Speakers

2:15-3:00 Networking

3:00-3:30 Attend Track B Open House

Track B


  • Animal Science
  • Cellular and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
  • Data Science and Math
  • Medicine, Health, and Disease
  • Microbiology
  • Plant Science 

8:00-9:00 Check-in, Health Sciences Innovation Building (HSIB)

8:00-9:30 Project set-up (all categories)

9:30-10:15 Keynote Speakers

10:15-11:00 Networking

11:00-12:00 Lunch/College and Career Fair

12:00-12:30 Attend Track A Open House

1:00-3:00 Interviews

3:00-3:30 Track B Open House

Interviews — What to expect 

  • As you enter the project floor during project setup time, locate your project according to the Locator Number that accompanies your project on the virtual exhibit hall. Projects will be arranged by category and then in numerical order. 
  • You will find your board and printed project slides at your Locator Number spot. Using the materials provided, assemble the desired project slides on your board to aid in the interview. You will not be judged on this board. 
  • Arrange any additional physical items you brought, for example, models, prototypes, a laptop, etc. You may not bring a printed poster or a project board you assembled at home. All items you bring must follow Display and Safety Rules or will not be permitted. 
  • A Master Schedule of interviews will be posted. You will know when judges are scheduled to interview you and will be able to see any breaks you may have during the interview period. Additional judges and Sponsored Awards judges may sign up in-person for one of your empty slots, so if you have a break, be sure to check that no one has signed up before having a snack or using the restroom. You won’t want to miss an additional interview! 
  • Interviews are 8 minutes long and will begin every 10 minutes (allowing 2 minutes for judges to move to the next project). 
  • An announcement will be made at the beginning of each interview period, and a chime will sound at the seven-minute mark so that judges may ask any last questions and wrap up the interview. 
  • Parents, caregivers, and teachers will not be permitted on the project floor during the interview sessions. Only judges, students, and staff will be permitted on the project floor during interview sessions.  
  • Open House periods will be open to the public and other students.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, and dress in business casual or professional attire.  
  • Bring a water bottle and snacks.  
  • Lunch will be provided for students.

Parents and caregivers

  • Parking is limited at UA. We recommend getting dropped off or carpooling if possible. Dropoffs can be at the HSIB roundabout on Drachman, east of Cherry.
  • If parking is necessary, the Highland Street garage is the nearest parking structure. The cost is $2/hr with a $16 daily maximum.  
  • Parents and caregivers will not be permitted on the project floor during interviews or in networking sessions. Parents and caregivers may attend the Open House.


  • There will be a Teacher’s area, where educators can network and rest during the event. Light snacks will be provided for educators.  

Registration is open for SARSEF’s first-ever Fair Director conference!

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Science Fair.

For Fair Directors, educators, and administrators

Whether you are new to science and engineering fairs or a seasoned alum, attend workshops that will increase your ability to confidently and easily encourage Science Fair participation at your school and support the next generation of scientists, engineers, and leaders!

Workshop topics include:

  • Project basics
  • Demystifying SRC
  • Data visualization strategies
  • Judging tips
  • Integrating state standards with real-world investigations
  • How best to support student research
  • Addressing common teacher, student, and parent questions
  • How to run a Science Fair at your school
  • Coding basics, using 21st century tools in research
  • How to get the most out of the SARSEF Regional Fair experience

and more!

Conference Details

When? Saturday, September 16, 2023 9:00am-2:00pm

Where? Community Foundation for Southern Arizona 5049 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85711

Cost? $25 per attendee All registration fees are being covered by a generous donation from the Broadcom Foundation!

The conference will consist of general sessions, networking, and breakout “elective” sessions. Attendees will receive the full list of electives and submit their choices as we get closer to the conference date. Lunch and light refreshments will be served! Space is limited – register now!

Press Release: Arizona Students Win More Than $100,000 at the 2023 SARSEF Regional Science and Engineering Fair!

(Tucson, AZ)

In March, SARSEF held their 68th Annual Regional Science and Engineering Fair and hosted a Community STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Expo. The fair provided students the opportunity to be recognized and rewarded for their work in science and engineering. 

Over 20 exhibitors joined the STEM Expo, igniting passion for science through hands-on experiences taught by real-world professionals such as: Center for Negative Carbon Emissions – ASU, Bisbee Science Lab, and the Arizona Science Center.

The SARSEF Fair highlighted the work of 5,949 students and 1,560 projects from over 140 schools, pre-kindergarten through high school, from all over Arizona. Over $100,000 in checks, scholarships, prizes, and trips were given out to students as well as teachers who went above and beyond to support their students’ work. 

“My participation in the SARSEF Fair helped me to realize that research effort has a true influence that goes beyond making scientific developments. Behind each project, students spent months planning and working diligently for the goal of improving the community by sharing their passion for science with others,” shared SARSEF Winner Andrea Hernandez from Rio Rico High School, “I did not understand how much I had evolved personally and professionally until I presented alongside more than a thousand other projects. I feel like a real scientist!”

Andrea Hernandez, Grade 12, Rio Rico High School

257 volunteer judges determined the grand awards, volunteering over 2,570 hours of their time. Judges reviewed projects and interviewed students to determine who will win a prize. 

Valeria Toscano Pasos, who attends Flowing Wells High School, examined the gut-to-brain signaling pathway associated with maintenance of energy homeostasis and nutrient-induced satiation. She was excited to have had the opportunity to present her research and is excited to continue and explore her scientific journey. 

 “SARSEF changed my perspective on science fairs. Seeing the plethora of projects and everyone’s dedication to their projects made it feel less competitive and more community oriented. I hope that my achievements in both SARSEF Fair and JSHS (Junior Science and Humanities Symposium) inspire Flowing Wells students to engage in science and formulate their own projects.”

Valeria Toscano Pasos, Grade 12, Flowing Wells High School

Over 400 Sponsored Awards were given to students. These awards are contributed by individuals or organizations within the community and nationally, supporting and encouraging students to become future leaders and believe in themselves. For example, Jasper Byerley, who attends Doolen Middle School, won the Coding with Commitment Sponsored Award given by Broadcom Foundation. The award included public recognition by the foundation, a $250 gift certificate, and a Raspberry Pi Foundation Official RP 400 Personal Computer Kit. 

Nine students will continue on to compete at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering fair (ISEF) in Dallas, Texas: Andrea Romero (Harvest Preparatory Academy), Ashley Valencia (Harvest Preparatory Academy), Estefany Regalado and Jorge Covarrubias, (Harvest Preparatory Academy), Hannah Feinberg (BASIS Tucson North), Jimena Uribe Lin (Harvest Preparatory Academy), Jimmy Kwon (BASIS Tucson North), Keona Kuo (University High School), and Serena Rezende Tsao (University High School).

Visit the Virtual Fair and review projects in the exhibit hall:

View the 2022 Awards List:


SARSEF was formed in 1955 in an effort to increase student interest in the field of science. The mission of SARSEF is to engage Arizona’s Pre-K-12 grade students in critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they participate in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) through inquiry-based learning and research.

SARSEF accomplishes this mission through a variety of programming including a high school mentoring program, the STAR Lab, SARSEF Fair Week, educational outreach programs with an emphasis on underrepresented populations in the sciences, teacher professional development, ACES Camp for Middle School girls, Racing the Sun, and Arizona STEM Adventure.

To learn more about SARSEF programs and how students, teachers, and families can get involved, visit

Media Contact:

Yvonne Pysher, Director of Marketing and Communications


(520) 525-5230