SCIENCE FAIR FOR STUDENTS FROM MEĐIMURJE COUNTY 2013
Regional Development Agency Međimurje - REDEA d.o.o.
Science and Society Synergy Institute
Međimurje IT cluster
What is Science Fair?
Science Fair is a gathering of students and their mentors with the purpose of friendly exchange of ideas and presentation of their science projects that have been conducted during the school year. The primary goal of such an event is to present the results of students' science projects to other students and mentors, as well as to the general public who can thus learn something new about science. A committee made up of scientists and experts selects several students whose projects stand out for their quality. These students are publicly commended and given the opportunity to attend larger international science fairs or summer science camps.
What is a student science project?
During their education students are, to a greater or lesser extent, exposed to various types of practical training. However, science projects, which have special educational importance, are the most challenging element of the teaching process - which is probably the reason for under-representation of student science projects in Croatia (it exists only partially in the system of student competitions that are predominantly focused on solving knowledge tests, rather than solving practical science problems). Science research projects are conducted by applying the principles of the scientific method, which can be roughly described as follows:
1. Asking questions and defining problems;
2. Setting up the working hypotheses and objectives of the research project;
3. Making research plans and defining procedures to be used;
4. Performing experiments, observations or calculations;
5. Analysis of the obtained results and comparison with similar existing data from other studies;
6. Conclusions of the study in response to the initial question.
How did the science fair in Međimurje come into being?
A series of meetings involving nearly 40 teachers, mentors and school principals from Međimurje county was held during June, July and October 2012. The main topic was how to help encourage and foster education through student science projects. The meetings were initiated by the Međimurje county, Regional Development Agency REDEA and Science and Society Synergy institute. Based on a lengthy series of proposals and ideas, it was agreed that a program for encouraging student science projects should be initiated. Science fair was selected as the first major activity during the school year 2012/13, taking into account the financial constraints.
What are the goals behind the support for student science projects?
The program aims at directing more resources to students, their mentors and experts who assist student science projects. We want to encourage interdisciplinary and collaborative work by students, schools and the local businesses through the students' projects. Our program is based on the idea that poor economic conditions are not an obstacle for a quality education, and that such education can eliminate differences in achieving success between students from various socio-economic backgrounds. In achieving its mission the program operates through three main models: 1) networking of teachers, mentors and experts, 2) organization of an annual science fair, 3) fund-raising for students, mentors, and schools to enable them to carry out student science projects.
Why is it important to encourage student science projects?
Croatia lags behind the global educational trends in the implementation of hands-on learning of science and technology in the classroom. This has long-term consequences for its economic development. The commonly used indicators are the results of the OECD PISA survey focusing on the skills of young people to implement their scientific and mathematical knowledge in practice. In this study Croatian youth scores very low and the accompanying indicators point to a great disparity between the quality of schools in Croatia and insufficient teaching of science and mathematics. Croatia will also need to face a particularly worrisome global trend involving the declining interest of young people in science and technology with the rise of economic development of a society. This indicates that Croatia will be confronted with an increasing lack of workforce with practical scientific and technological knowledge as the local economy gets more innovative. Another problem that should be taken into account, but it is generally neglected in Croatia, is the definition of "a gifted student". The global trend is moving towards abandoning the concept of giftedness as a predominantly inherited trait, while the increasingly prevalent view is that talent can be fostered with a systematic encouragement of creative work and by a general support for the development of knowledge and skills in motivated children.
Is there a link between the science fair and student competitions?
Analysis of secondary school students’ participation in science competitions in Croatia has shown that the Međimurje county is among the leaders in Croatia in the relative representation of its students at the state-level competitions. However, the system of student competitions in Croatia is predominantly focused on solving passive knowledge tests, rather than solving practical problems. Unfortunately, even the part of these competitions focused on student projects is not organized in a way that would give useful feedback to students and their mentors regarding the quality of their work and how to improve it. The overall result of such a system of competitions is that Croatia lags behind when it comes to applying the hands-on learning methods through science projects in the classroom. However, mentors from Međimurje county show rather atypical interest for participating in the competitions focused on science projects. Science Fair, through its system of professional review of student projects results, also serves as support for students and mentors to prepare for the competitions. This is currently a unique example in Croatia of a county level support for student science projects.
BASIC INFORMATION ABOUT THE SCIENCE FAIR
Date of event:
• March 16, 2013
· Međimurje County
· Regional Development Agency Međimurje - REDEA d.o.o.
· Science and Society Synergy Institute
· Međimurje IT cluster
• High school Prelog
• Elementary school Prelog
Financial support for the festival:
• Ministry of Science, Education and Sports (25.000kn)
• Međimurje county (1.000kn)
• City of Prelog (5.000kn)
• City of Čakovec (1.500kn)
• Science and Society Synergy Institute (2.000kn)
• Školska knjiga d.o.o. (donation of books for prizes)
• High school Prelog (event catering)
• 23 student projects
• 42 students
• 20 mentors
• 8 schools
Presentations in three age groups:
• 7th and 8th grade (Elementary School)
• 1st and 2nd grade of high school
• 3rd and 4th grade of high school
Reviews of the written part of student projects:
• 20 scientists / experts from all around Croatia (science subjects: biology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, astronomy, agronomy, history, geophysics)
Science Fair committee of judges:
• Dr.sc. Bojan Pečnik, Science Director of Technology and Innovation Centre Međimurje
• Prof.dr.sc. Kristian Vlahoviček, leader of the bioinformatics research group at the Faculty of Science in Zagreb
• Prof.dr.sc. Gordana Rusak, leader of a research project at the Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Zagreb
• Dr.sc. Hrvoje Meštrić, Director of Business Innovation Croatian Agency, BICRO
• Dipl.ing.Damir Sabol, IT expert and entrepreneur
• Dr.sc. Tome Antičić, Director of Ruđer Bošković Institute
Prizes in each age group for the:
• best presentation of a project
• most substantial project
• multidisciplinary project
• research project of the year
• most interesting project as voted by the visitors