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Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair


Recently I volunteered as a professional statistician representing the Washington Statistical Society to judge the projects submitted for the Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair.

This science fair was held at the Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Virginia. I was really impressed by the high level of organization involved and also the quality projects the students worked on.

One key difference from the last time I judged (for a poster contest) is that this time the students were present. We could ask the students questions to see what they were thinking, give them advice for future studies, give examples from our own work (our successes and mistakes!), and so on.

There were many judges, probably several hundred in total, representing different organizations. Five of us were representing the Washington Statistical Society. We were mainly looking for examples of exceptional statistical thinking in the students' projects.

There were about 400 projects to review, and we split up the assigments based on the topics were were most interested in. Each of us had roughly 80 projects to review. We did two passes. The first pass was each of us marking down which projects in our assigned sections had high quality statistical content and deserve a closer second pass. For the second pass, we'd pair up and spend more time talking to the students about their statistical thinking.

After we were done with the passes, we'd meet and discuss our 1st, 2nd, and honorable mentions. They received various awards such as money, a year subscription to Significance magazine, a statistics book, certificates, and letters. Because of the high quality work the students did, sometimes it was very difficult to choose! The entire review process, from start to finish, took ~3.5 hrs.

In the projects I judged, and in the projects I saw but did not judge, I noticed statistical issues that could be improved for future studies. In no particular order:

Overall, a great job was done by all students, organizers, and judges. I learned a lot from the students and I will be back next year!

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