COVID-19 Puts Damper on NEA Science Fair

Column by Eric McGee | Staff Writer

The 64th Annual Northeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair was held Friday in Centennial Hall. This year’s fair was unfortunately abbreviated due to the threat of COVID-19. Many school administrators would not let their students and teachers fully participate because of the threat.

Dr. J. Tillman Kennon is the Director of the NEA Science Fair and is currently the Associate Chair of Arkansas State’s Department of Chemistry and Physics. According to Dr. Kennon, there were 160 projects exhibited at this years fair. This is up 40 projects from last year. Students from all schools were allowed to exhibit their projects, but some were not allowed to participate while the fair was open to the public.

The fair consists of a junior division and a senior division. The junior division participants are from grades 6-8, and the senior division encompasses grades 9-12. There were many different categories in which students were able to earn certificates and prizes. However, the overall category yielded the most significant awards. The junior division awarded first and second place participants in the overall category, and the senior division awarded first, second and third place participants in the overall category.

    In the senior division, the top three overall winners will represent Northeast Arkansas at the International Science and Engineering Fair. This is planned to be held May 10-15 in Los Angeles, CA. The students’ travel expenses are to be paid for by the NEA Science Fair. The state legislature and private donors help fund the enterprise. 

    Unfortunately, there were only 30 or 40 individuals whom showed up at the fair. With 160 projects on exhibit, one could only feel sad. Science fairs are normally an opportunity for aspiring scientists and engineers to shine. The students obviously worked hard on their projects. All were interesting and professionally done. Also, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears unlikely the students will be able to show their work in Los Angeles. Dr. Kennon said a decision has to be made by early April so travel arrangements can be made.

Winning or placing in a regional science fair is a significant accomplishment. Therefore, it is important to recognize the winners in the overall categories . In the Senior Division, first place went to Cooper Bassham of Salem High School. Second place went to Bryce Despain of Riverside High School and third place went to Echo Mitchell of Rural Special School. In the Junior Division, first place went to Eli Isom of Oak Grove Middle School and second place went to Gatsby Langston of Blytheville Middle School.

It seems like the COVID-19 pandemic is sucking the air out of everything. Hopefully, the students that participated in the NEA Regional Science Fair this year are not too discouraged. After all, it’s scientists that are needed at the frontline when fighting a pandemic.

Senior division winners of the NEA science fair. Some placeholders were unavailable due to the circumstances.
One of the many projects displayed at Friday’s science fair.

Categories: News


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