Science contests for kids: Placer County STEM exposition

Part of an ongoing series of posts about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) contests and competitions for kids.  To read all such posts, use the “Previous Posts” box in the right sidebar; “Select category” Science education: STEM contests.

Rocklin, in Placer County near Sacramento, California, will host its 2nd annual Placer County STEM Exposition  (STEM=science, technology, engineering, and math) in March 2012.  The Expo is billed as “an innovative alternative to the typical science fair,” and from what I see at their website, it’s true.

Science fairs associated with the Intel ISEF are primarily experimental; students are expected to ask a question/make a hypothesis, design an experiment to test it, perform the test, and draw conclusions.  This STEM expo instead offers a wonderful list of less-structured, exploration-oriented STEM activities, including building a “Rube Goldberg” device, taking things apart and putting them back together (reverse engineering), inventing, robotics, and even writing science fiction.

Personally, I think this is a fabulous model and I would love to see others imitate it because I think it would be easier to get students excited and involved than in traditional science fairs.

Who: 4th-12th graders

When: March 24, 2012

Where: Rocklin, CA

This Northern California event is unusual in that kids themselves enter projects; most other STEM or science “expos” are designed for kids to visit but the demonstrations and projects are all presented to them by adults.  (An Internet search for “science expo” yields many regular (Intel ISEF-affiliated) science fairs, too, which are quite different from this event.)  If you know of competitive events like the one in Placer County, which don’t follow ISEF rules, please leave a comment.  I think I found a couple:

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