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 Volcanoes to Robots: 62 Years of Science Fair

​​From erupting volcanos to cutting-edge research in autism and extending life, the San Diego County Office of Education has supported students since 1955 as they discovered their passion at the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair.

On Wednesday, the San Diego County Board of Education​ will recognize the accomplishments of seven students who were recognized for their work at the fair. Their projects ranged from anti-aging breakthroughs and resistance to antibiotics to shape-shifting robots.

This year, about 2,000 projects were submitted by 7th- to 12th-grade students from 75 schools across the county. A total of 754 projects were judged by volunteer professionals at the fair, which was March 17 to 20 at the Balboa Park Activity Center.

The lead organizers of the volunteer- and donation-based fair are husband and wife team, Phil and Wendy Gay. He is a retired science coordinator and she a librarian at San Diego Unified School District. Phil brought his science students to the fair in 1962, and then he joined the fair committee in 1975.

With the state's new Next Generation Science Standards​, hands-on, ​project-based learning is key. But for many years, the science fair was one of the only ways for students to experience science in action, said John Spiegel, SDCOE's science coordinator.

The science fair also takes a slice from several different content areas for the completion of one project, he said. Students have to research, draw or take photos, perform calculations, and communicate their experiment.

"The science fair continues to be a quality opportunity to cheer our students' accomplishments in academics," Spiegel said.

The students to be recognized at the June 8 board meeting are: Maggie Chen of Torrey Pines High School; Robert Henning of Mission Hills High School; and Anthony Kang, Liana Merk, Brian Xia, Nicholas Laqua, and Annam Tran, all of Canyon Crest Academy.

Chen, Kang, Merk, and Xia are four of the six Senior Division Sweepstakes winners at the fair and recently showcased their work in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix. They also received $2,000 each from the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.