Top Young Scientists Compete in Science Engineering Fair

Event at UH Seeks to Inspire Students to Pursue Careers in Tech Fields

Are you looking for the next big thing? You might find it at this year’s Science Engineering Fair of Houston, set for Feb. 27 on the University of Houston campus.

About 1,200 students are expected to compete in the 57th Science Engineering Fair of Houston (SEFH) at the UH Athletic & Alumni Center, 3100 Cullen Boulevard. Registration will be Feb. 26, and the award ceremony will be Sunday, Feb. 28, at the UH Cullen Performance Hall.

The fair, one of the largest competitive science engineering fairs in the nation, gives students in seventh through 12th grades a chance to present their research – in addition to the science project competition, the fair also sponsors contests in science and engineering writing and for technical poster design – as well as to meet people from a variety of scientific fields.

Heather Domjan, executive director of SEFH and a faculty member of the UH College of Education, said several hundred industry professionals serve as judges, giving the students a chance to ask questions and learn from them and other event volunteers. 

Winners will go on to the Texas State Engineering Science Fair in San Antonio March 31-April 2. Grand award winners are eligible for the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair, which will be held in Phoenix in May.

One of last year’s grand award winners, Karan Jerath of Friendswood, was named to Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” in energy for his project, a subsea wellhead containment device that could capture oil and gas escaping from an offshore well, separate it into liquids and gases and store it on a surface vessel. Jerath earned a $50,000 scholarship from the INTEL fair.

SEFH serves as the regional fair for all public, private, charter and home school middle and high school students in Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery and 20 additional counties throughout Southeast Texas. Chevron is the presenting sponsor, joined by gold sponsors Exxon Mobil, Phillips 66 and the Society for Information Management.  UH sponsors include the colleges of engineering, technology, education and natural science and mathematics, along with the UH STEM Center.

“At Chevron, we recognize that today's students are tomorrow's employees,” said Chevron Public Affairs Manager Joni Baird. “Through our programs and strategic partnerships, collectively we can help students and teachers get the tools and access the resources needed to take advantage of many STEM opportunities. If we want to truly make a difference, businesses must work together with education organizations, government officials and community leaders to provide educators with the resources to interest students and prepare them for STEM-related careers of the future.”

Laura Jacobs, associate director of SEFH and a lecturer in the UH College of Education, said participants stand to gain more than trophies, ribbons and even scholarships.

Increasing the number of people trained to hold STEM jobs – those requiring knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – is a key priority for the National Science Foundation, Jacobs notes, and giving students a chance to interact with people in various STEM fields has been shown to increase their interest in STEM careers.

“This is really a way to say, the dream is attainable, and here’s someone to guide you,” she said.