By: Isaiah Hudson

On February 17, 2024, young intelligent minds took Old Dominion University by storm. ODU hosted the 20th annual Norfolk Public Schools Science Fair. Elementary and middle school students from the Norfolk Public School system had the opportunity to showcase not only their love for the sciences but also got a chance to present their original scientific experiments.

While waiting for the opening ceremony to kick off students and parents had the chance to meet with ODU's mascot, Big Blue. Many students and parents smiled as Big Blue shook hands, gave hugs, and calmed nerves. Participants eagerly registered and prepared to present their scientific work to judges at the fair.

At the opening ceremony, orchestra students from the Academy for Discovery at Lakewood and Blair Middle School students performed the National Anthem. Afterwards, ODU President Brian O. Hemphill welcomed everyone to the science fair. After thanking everyone for participating in the science fair, President Hemphill talked to the audience about the value of getting an education. “I want you to come to Old Dominion University, but regardless of where your path takes you there's a few words of wisdom I’d like to leave you with and they apply to you right now,” said President Hemphill. “I want you to get to know your teachers. Can anyone tell me why?” A fellow educator and parent said loudly, “We are your biggest supporters, and we love seeing you succeed.” She added, “I just watched a student of mine play the national anthem, and that was really heartwarming to see, so congratulations to all of you.” President Hemphill agreed with the parent’s sentiments and wished everyone participating in the science fair to have “a wonderful time while at Old Dominion.”

There were rows of projects that students worked hard on leading up to this competition. Approximately 115 students from about 39 schools participated in the competition. ODU MonarchTeach Coordinator Lauren Bowers, Ph.D. said, “We were so thankful to host Norfolk Public schools at ODU for the third year in a row. We love our partnership with them, and we enjoy seeing how students are applying their STEM knowledge through their experiments and then presentation of their projects.” Projects covered categories such as life science, design science, earth science, and physical science. Elementary students presented their projects via tri-fold boards while middle school students used PowerPoint presentations. Judges for the science fair volunteered from local Hampton Road institutions. “It was truly a community event,” said Bowers.

Although students came to the science fair to showcase their hard work and determination, they also had the opportunity to explore various campus labs and science and engineering facilities during the day. Participants had the opportunity to visit the ODU Monarch Engineering and Innovation Lab (M-Lab), the Michael and Kimthanh Lê Digital Theater and Planetarium as well as see the Aquatics Lab.

The young scientists and parents also had the opportunity to enjoy various scientific demonstrations during the science fair. Current ODU College of Sciences’ faculty and students from various departments helped the budding scientists to see science with a new understanding. Monarchs majoring in Physics, Ocean & Earth Science and Computer Science held demonstrations which stimulated engaging conversations as well.

The 20th annual Norfolk Public Schools Science Fair not only benefited the students who presented their work, but also the parents, teachers, and ODU organizers and volunteers who ensured the students and their passion for science will be enhanced for years to come.