High School Science Fairs

This program encourages high school students to study and excel in STEM by offering an award in DC area science fair competitions. The award consists of a stipend, a certificate, and a subscription to Technology Review for an outstanding 11th grade science fair project, and certificates and subscriptions for up to two honorable mentions. 

Make a Donation

Our efforts to date have been extremely well received by students, school/fair officials, and the MIT judges. The cost of this program is estimated to be $1,600 annually. Your donation of any amount in support of this and our other K-12 efforts will be greatly appreciated. You can contribute at the same time as you pay your membership dues or anytime at all, either by check or online by credit card from our K-12 Donations page.

Volunteer as a Judge

We need help from local MIT alumni in completing the judging for these MIT Club-sponsored awards in the spring of each year. In each of the school districts listed below we will need several judges on the day of their science fair to review eligible projects and students and choose the winners. The competitions are held on various Saturdays in February and March, and judging requires several hours that Saturday morning or afternoon. We will provide criteria and guidelines for determining the award. Judges do not need to be experts in science, engineering, or mathematics. Past participants have said they enjoyed a very satisfying and rewarding experience interacting with these outstanding students.

Each Fall we augment the judges from the previous year, and if you want to help in one of these competitions please e-mail Dan Ford at danfordjr@gmail.com or call him at 202-650-7517. Please indicate the districts in which you would be willing to participate and give a general description of your discipline (engineering, life sciences, chemistry, etc.) so we can balance the judging teams. Once our teams have been constituted we will pass the remaining volunteers on to the school districts since they always need judges for the regular categories.

  • Montgomery County--at the University of Maryland in College Park
  • Prince George's County, MD--at Prince George's Community College, Largo
  • Arlington, Alexandria, and Falls Church, VA--at Wakefield High School, Arlington
  • Fairfax County, VA--at Robison Secondary School, Fairfax
  • District of Columbia--at Atholton High School, Columbia
  • Loudoun County, VA--at Freedom High School, Chantilly

Science Saturday Project at Carlin Springs Elementary School

The Club received an email from a 5th grade teacher at Carlin Springs Elementary School in Arlington:

“I am writing on behalf of my fifth grade students at Carlin Springs Elementary School.  Our students are largely from families with limited financial resources, limited English and complex family situations. As an English as a Second Language teacher, I see how many of our 5th grade students struggle with academic English – the vocabulary and grammatical structures that are used to teach science, math and social studies. 

We would like to host a special event, Science Saturday, to help selected students gain a deeper understanding of words like hypothesis and independent variable.  By working closely with an adult mentor on an experiment of their choice, we hope to make these words more meaningful and more memorable.  But I need help with recruiting volunteers and identifying the experiments.  I have strong support from our principal (to open the building on a Saturday, to buy the materials, and to encourage the students.)  But I don't know how to find the right people.  The students are ordinary kids, not science geniuses, so we need people who are both knowledgeable and patient!  With the right kind of mentors, an event like this could truly be life-changing for these children.”

Well, this was a challenge that no self-respecting MIT grad could pass up; and beside it sounded like a lot of fun.  Within a week, the Club had recruited the required 20 volunteers, and “Science Saturday” was held on March 14 (coincidentally “Pi Day”).  

The students were selected by the teacher and the most common response was “Gee, I get to work with a real scientist!”.  The students were assigned one of four experiments: a balloon rocket, a pendulum, a density tower or a friction experiment. 

The students came in smiling, excited and ready to go.  The alums were just as excited and instantly set to work with their assigned student.  As with everything at MIT, the mood was let’s get on it and make something happen.  And happen it did; there was serious discourse, lots of smiles and laughter, but at the same time intense focus.  Upon completion, the students met in groups with their mentor at their side and described what they had accomplished and learned: this was my hypothesis, these were my dependent and independent variables, these are my data and this is my conclusion.

Thank you to all the alums who participated.  They have each touched one child and assuredly helped move that student one more step along the way to a successful education and productive career.

None of this would have been possible without the dedication and commitment of teacher Amy Graham.  From documenting the experiments in painstaking detail, to inviting the students, to running trials of the experiments, modifying and adjusting to ensure that everything worked, was truly incredible.  Thank you, Amy, on behalf of the whole community and the MIT Club.