This year, I was in the environmental category. My project aimed to create an anaerobic biomass digester by using 100% recycled materials. And though I had made it to Delaware Valley – which is the level before the international level – I was expecting some tough competition. As soon as I stepped into the room, I felt pretty confident, but by the time that I sat down, I was a little worried. When I had finished adjusting my board, I looked to my left to meet a very smart young man who had created the most successful pathogen detector in history. But wait, it gets better . . . it was also cheaper than anything on the market. At the science fair works the more successful your project, the greater amount of judges will approach you. By an hour in, over twenty judges had met him, shook his hand, and offered him large amounts of money. Each time that a group of judges came over, I was optimistic that that they were coming to talk to me, the boldly suited, glasses wearing, intelligent looking seventeen year-old, but each time I was let down. As soon as I thought that I may have lost hope, a group of women approached. After introducing themselves and asking for a brief explanation of my project, we had a conversation. It was not about science per say, but it was everything in between and around what science meant to us. As they walked away, it was if they had graced me with good luck, and a few more judges approached me before the competition concluded. As for the boy next to me, it seemed as if he had gotten some bad news from the USDA judges. Apparently, the pathogens that he was detecting were, quite frankly, not pathogens.
Though I did not walk away with any medal, I was awarded with a special award from the Women in Geosciences Organization, and as for my fairy godmother judges, who knows if I will ever see them again. What was most meaningful about the women who had talked to me was that they were able to put in perspective the real reason that I had come there. It wasn’t to risk my self-esteem at an intense competition of the sciences; it was to experience the inexperienced, to learn, and to grow. It was those women who had allowed me to remember that, though I had been one of the few girls in the category, that what I was passionate about was of supreme importance.
As I walked onto the school bus to head back to GA, Ms. Smith asked me how it went. This time I smiled. “Not so bad,” I said. “Not bad at all.”
- Nichelle H. '15
- Nichelle H. '15