Beyond erupting volcanoes: Researching factors for success at science fairs

First year seminar Fadigan

Science fairs help students hone their presentation skills, which are put to good use by Abington education majors who use common items to demonstrate scientific concepts.

Credit: Regina Broscius

ABINGTON, Pa. -- Science fairs -- why do they ignite a passion in some students to develop complex and challenging projects? How do students perceive science fairs participation --  is it cool or nerdy? Do gender, career aspirations and socioeconomic factors influence their attitudes?

Kathleen Fadigan, assistant professor of education at Penn State Abington, examines the forces that drive young researchers to successful outcomes at science fairs. Her analyses produced one paper with a curious young researcher, Ashanti Obamwonyi, as its fourth author. Obamwonyi, an Abington biology major, worked on the project with Fadigan as part of Abington College Undergraduate Research Activities (ACURA).

Fadigan will present their research paper, "The Regional Science Fair: Students’ Motivation for and Perception of Participation" (2014), at the National Association of Research in Science Teaching Annual International Conference in Pittsburgh.

Fadigan has three additional presentations scheduled during the American Educational Research Association annual meeting in Philadelphia next month:

• Urban Students’ Motivation for and Perception of Science Fair Participation (2014). Poster. Fadigan, K.A., Hammrich, P.L., & Majerich, D.M.

• Gender Patterns in Educational and Career Plans of Participants in an Urban, County-level Science Fair (2014). Roundtable session. Fadigan, K.A. & Hammrich, P.L.

• The Creativity of Science in Sports (2014). Poster. Hammrich, P.L., & Fadigan, K.A.