By Jessica Creagan
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- Gifford Middle School may be hosting classes as normal this week, but in the near future the campus will be chock full of hypotheses and science boards.
The Education Foundation of Indian River County will present the 22nd annual Indian River Regional Science and Engineering Fair at Gifford Middle School on Feb. 1.
All of the participating students are ready to present their projects, but the nonprofit is still looking for more volunteer judges to evaluate the students' work, event coordinators said.
There are an estimated 560 students participating in the fair this year, and 300 of those students will be kindergarten through the fifth grade, the age group with the most need for judges.
Judges for the elementary school category need to have an understanding of the scientific method and the ability to hear soft voices, said Cynthia Falardeau, executive director of the Education Foundation of Indian River County.
It may seem a strange request, but when an entire building is full of kids and judges talking about the projects on display, it can be difficult to hear and follow conversations, she said.
"It's a big deal," Ms. Falardeau said.
When talking to the children, judges will need to evaluate what the child has learned in doing the project and how well they understood their outcomes.
One misconception that many people have about the fair is that science fairs are demonstrations, and they think about an erupting model volcano, but in actuality, science and engineering projects, especially at the early elementary level, are more about measuring or counting something, Ms. Falardeau said.
"In the fourth and fifth grades, the projects become more complex with more variables involved," she said.
Judges for the secondary levels, sixth grade through high school should have a degree or related work experience in science and engineering, a press release said.
To volunteer as a judge or a sponsor, or for more information about the 22nd annual Indian River Regional Science and Engineering Fair, call (772) 564-0034 or visit www.edufoundationirc.org.