More than 1,300 middle school and high school students from 125 schools will be at the George R. Brown Convention Center Feb. 19 and 20 for one of the largest science and engineering fairs in the country.
“It’s an exciting event,” said University of Houston Professor Bonnie J. Dunbar, director of the UH STEM Center who also serves as director of the 55th Annual Science and Engineering Fair of Houston (SEFH). The fair is held in collaboration with the Engineering Council of Houston, the University of Houston and local donors: this year the presenting sponsor is the Chevron Corporation.
The winning students and Teacher of the Year will be celebrated at the awards ceremony on Feb. 22 at the E. Cullen Performance Hall on the UH campus.
Event highlights include:
- The students expected at the regional fair all are winners of local science competitions.
- About 25,000 students compete for the 1,300 spots at the Science and Engineering Fair of Houston, with some of the largest delegations coming from the Fort Bend, Clear Creek and Conroe school districts.
- SEFH involves about 600 volunteer judges from industry, academia and government.
- Some SEFH winners will receive cash prizes as part of their award.
- 102 winners will travel to the Texas competition in San Antonio in March.
- SEFH will send 11 winners to the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles in May.
Science fairs are important events for engaging students in STEM careers – science, technology, engineering and mathematics, said Dunbar, a former astronaut and professor of mechanical engineering who also serves as director of the aerospace engineering program at the UH Cullen College of Engineering.
“The nation is facing a shortage of qualified scientists and engineers, a situation described in the 2012 report by President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The challenge to the nation is to graduate 1 million new scientists and engineers by 2020,” Dunbar said.
“In order to graduate more scientists and engineers, we need more and better-prepared math and science high school students for our colleges of engineering, math and science,” she said. “That translates into biology, chemistry and physics and four years of math by high school graduation. At the completion of a college education in engineering, math, biology, chemistry, and physics are a wealth of careers with opportunities to creatively solve some of the most pressing challenges of our time.”
A 2013 Brookings Report identified a clear need in Houston. It reported that Houston ranked 5th in STEM career demand out of 100 U.S. cities, but 72nd in supplying STEM workers. About two-thirds of the local STEM workforce with at least a bachelor’s degree comes from outside of Texas; almost one-fourth were born outside of the United States.
Local industries and research institutes are very interested in the success of SEFH. In addition to Chevron, contributing sponsors include the University of Houston, Air Liquide, Marathon Oil Corporation, Exxon Mobil, Phillips 66, Shell, the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Houston Geological Society.
“The students who have entered SEFH are my heroes,” Dunbar said.
The media and the public are invited to the George R. Brown Convention Center to see the fun for themselves and to help celebrate the winning students on Feb. 22.