WNC students to gather for Feb. 16-17 science fair at WCU

Students from elementary, junior high and high schools throughout Western North Carolina will gather at Western Carolina University on Tuesday, Feb. 16, and Wednesday, Feb. 17, as the university hosts the Western Regional Science and Engineering Fair.

Activities take place at WCU’s Ramsey Regional Activity Center. Science projects created for the fair by area students will be available for viewing by the public from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day. Admission is free.

The fair typically attracts 250 to 300 projects created by students from more than 25 schools across the 16-county region. It is the largest STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) event held in the region, said Kefyn Catley, fair director and professor of biology at WCU.

The 2016 fair theme is “Science in the Stars.” “We are looking forward to an exciting presentation by PARI (Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute) that will allow students to participate in the many ways astronomers collect data from space,” Catley said. Exhibitors at this year’s event, in addition to PARI, are the Highlands Biological Station and Nature Center, Mainspring Conservation Trust, and various WCU departments and clubs.

Many local school groups will be attending the fair to see the science projects. Teachers around the region are encouraged to bring students, including those who will not be presenting projects, to visit the fair, he said. “We are looking forward to a record turnout and sharing the excitement of all fields of science,” Catley said.

Students in the elementary division, grades three through five, will showcase their projects on Feb. 16. Students in the junior and senior division, grades six through 12, will display their projects Feb. 17. Categories in that division include biological science, chemistry, earth/environmental science, physics and mathematics, technology and engineering. Information on each category and registration instructions can be viewed at the event website sciencefair.wcu.edu.

Students from the 16 westernmost counties of Western North Carolina who have placed at their schools’ science fair competitions are eligible to compete in the WCU fair. The deadline for project submission is at noon on Friday, Feb. 12.

Students do not have to submit a project to attend the morning presentation or participate in activities, which will include a scavenger hunt. All students and teachers attending are eligible for prizes. For more information, go to the event website or call WCU’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education at 828-227-7397.