Penn Manor Experiments With Science Fair Success

While some schools take as many as 150 students to the science fair, Penn Manor usually takes only 10 students.

Here students are now beginning to meet and plan their projects for Lancaster County’s annual science fair held in March at Franklin & Marshall College.

The difference in numbers may be because many schools demand their students participate in the science fair, while at Penn Manor it’s optional.

Surprisingly, Penn Manor has one of the highest percentage of winners at the science fair but without many students participating, it’s hard to get recognized.

“We have no common time in class. It would be nice to have an elective class where we could focus on the science fair,” said Penn Manor science teacher David Bender, who has coordinated and advised students in the science fair for five years.

Science Fair Advisor, David Bender. Photo by Kyle Hallett

This year Bender plans to present the school’s best projects, including Ben Clark’s much-anticipated astrophysics research.

“The worst part of doing this is just tracking down the kids, and having to get all of them together trying to get all of the information I need from them,” said Bender.

The science fair consists of roughly 50 schools, with 50-60 students per school, and only two students will go to the next level.

“We take most of the students’ projects to the fair, unless the project is very bad. If the project is that bad and the student is willing, I will sit down with them and help them improve their project and take it to the fair,” said Bender.

Some students like Ben Clark are working on projects with professors at some higher educational institutions. Also, Anthony Crognale is working on a project dealing with cancer.

If a student has completed a project and entered in the fair, they will get 1/4 of a credit. If the student participates in this all four years of their high school career, they will revive one extra credit. This credit can either be an AP or honors credit, depending on how well the project was put together.

The select group that will admit their projects into the science fair put as much time into their projects as they need. Some of the students tend to spend more time on theirs than some others. Their are assignments that need to be turned into Bender by a certain time though.

“The students seem to relax after the due date, and then when something is due soon they struggle with having to turn that part in. It’s like a roller-coaster going up and down,” said Bender.

The science department has to evaluate other school’s projects, as other schools will do the same for Penn Manor’s projects. They do it this way so there is no bias judgments on some students projects.

At the fair there are nearly 100 judges. The judges score the students on their projects with a rubric first. After they have gone around scoring with the rubric, they  ask the students certain questions about the project.  This is to clarify the student doesn’t have smart parents that will do their child’s project for them.

“My favorite part of doing this is just seeing how well the students did,” said Bender.

By Kyle Hallett and Dillon Walker