The Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine (ACOM) held the 2021 Wiregrass District Science Fair on February 26, 2021, as a reimagined and unique virtual experience due to COVID-19. Although a virtual science fair was not the ideal format, the College incorporated emerging technology to provide a successful experience for the participants. This year’s event showcased more than 30 elementary and middle school projects from Geneva and Houston counties.
The District Science Fair is an important event that gives students the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in their appropriate level math and science courses. In addition to having the opportunity to showcase their knowledge, the students were able to use this year’s fair to learn the skill of virtually presenting via Zoom. Middle school students, who advance from the local fair, will have the opportunity to participate in the Greater East Alabama Regional Science & Engineering Fair in March. The District Science Fair gave elementary school students the opportunity to learn the process of science fairs and gain experience in oral presentations, with the hope of inspiring them to participate in science fairs throughout middle and high school. This has been a great way for ACOM to support the science and math curriculum in the area and encourage future careers in science and healthcare fields.
Although virtual, the structure of this year’s fair, mirrored closely to that of past fairs without the in-person component. Students displayed their projects just as they would if being judged face-to-face, making their presentations in breakout rooms to ACOM faculty and medical students who were able to ask questions. Each student rose to the occasion and showed eagerness and excitement to showcase their hard work. With every answer and explanation, each student shined during their virtual performance, and their interest in science translated accordingly.
Fair organizer Caleb Hamilton, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences at ACOM, stated, “Obviously, an in-person event would have been the ideal situation due to the essential interpersonal interaction, so we did our best to embody that type of experience as best as possible through Zoom.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, ACOM is thankful to be able to provide this experience in a safe and socially distanced way and is encouraged by the interest to participate across the Wiregrass.