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Published Wednesday February 21, 2024

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!