KEYPORT, Wash. (NNS) -- The Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division, Keyport is gearing up to support the first-ever fully online Washington State Science and Engineering Fair (WSSEF) Mar. 27 – 28.
The annual WSSEF has been transitioned to an entirely online event this year in order to support the state’s educational program while conforming to CDC and state guidelines to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Many students have spent much of their time preparing for this event. Canceling the event would be a great disappointment to them- especially now that schools are closed,” said Sam De Lano, NUWC Keyport’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program coordinator. “The WSSEF will be a welcome distraction from the current pandemic, and will help keep STEM learning going, at least for some of our kids. Not to mention, students who participate in the fair are competing for more than $1,800,000 in scholarships, prizes and awards.”
The WSSEF has been a staple of the STEM program in Washington State for more than half a century. Despite the current pandemic, officials were determined to find a safe method for ensuring it will be held.
“The WSSEF has been held annually for over 60 years. Each year, hundreds of students sign up to participate. They present projects in over 20 categories, ranging from bio-chemistry to animal science,” said De Lano. “Students put a lot of effort into their projects; they don’t just slap something together the night before. The amount of learning that takes place is significant.”
Students will demonstrate their projects using their home computers to network with their judges, enabling real-time interaction despite the physical distance. Judges will receive special training to ensure they are confident using the new system.
“This year’s fair is going to be significant for several reasons,” said De Lano. “The amount of students participating and the $1.8 million in awards is not inconsiderable. Beyond that though, I think this year’s fair is going to be significant in how it paves the way for future virtual events. I think there will be a lot of parties across the state who will be interested to see how everything pans out. If all goes well, which I think it will, we might start seeing other community events start to shift towards a virtual environment.”
De Lano believes it is important for educational programs to find ways to keep the learning environment active during times such as the current pandemic.
“Keeping the WSSEF and other educational events going through online technology sends a message to the students that learning is critical, especially in light of an emergency,” said De Lano. “Teaching the next generation to persevere, be innovative, and always find a way forward is what will equip the next generation to overcome the challenges of the future.”
For more news from Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Keyport, visit www.navy.mil/local/nuwcd/.