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APSU hosts annual Middle Tenn. Science and Engineering Fair

About 120 students from 10 middle and high schools throughout middle Tennessee will flood Austin Peay State University this week to participate and compete in the 55th annual Middle Tennessee Science and Engineering Fair (MTSEF).

This marks the fourth year that APSUs science faculty and science majors have hosted the MTSEF, which is affiliated with the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).
About 120 students from 10 middle and high schools throughout middle Tennessee will flood Austin Peay State University this week to participate and compete in the 55th annual Middle Tennessee Science and Engineering Fair (MTSEF).

This marks the fourth year that APSU's science faculty and science majors have hosted the MTSEF, which is affiliated with the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

According to Dr. Ron Robertson, associate professor of chemistry and director of MTSEF, who makes science fun by taking projects to area schools via his character, “Labman,” the fair provides a forum for middle and high school students in the middle Tennessee region to exhibit their scientific and engineering projects. The projects can be by individuals or by teams.

Student projects are considered for more than $4,000 in awards in various scientific and engineering categories by selected MTSEF judges and local, national and international sponsors.

To enable fair organizers to prepare the winners' checks, the MTSEF Awards Ceremony will be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, April 14 in the Morgan University Center Ballroom.

With expenses paid by APSU, the top two projects in grades 9-12, called the Grand Prize Winners, will be sent to Albuquerque, N.M., later this spring to compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair. They also receive one-year, tuition-free scholarships to APSU.

Although the MTSEF winners in grades 6-8 do not automatically win a trip to a national competition, they can compete in the national Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge.

Prior to its move to APSU, the MTSEF had been hosted by Vanderbilt University. Robertson worked diligently to ensure APSU would become the host site for MTSEF, in large part because his son, Kenneth, had enrolled at APSU the previous fall as a freshman chemistry major. When Kenneth was a student at Dickson County High School, he had competed in the MTSEF, winning Grand Prizes and two trips to the International Science and Engineering Fair.

“Kenneth benefited tremendously from competing in MTSEF and, later, in ISEF,” Robertson said.

Robertson was successful in securing the MTSEF for APSU, but he admits that planning and coordinating the fair is a major undertaking. For the past four years, Kenneth, who now works for the Institute of Chemical Education at the University of Wisconsin, helped him with the myriad details of the fair.

“I surely miss Kenneth,” Robertson said. “But the effort is worth it. This fair helps prepare students for college. They develop a wide range of skills and learn to be poised as they answer judges' questions. To communicate their ideas effectively, they must create engaging displays. And by conducting and drawing conclusions from experiments, they develop higher order reasoning skills and begin to see the link between science class and the real world.”

The public is invited to view all MTSEF projects between 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday, March 23 in the Morgan University Center Ballroom.

For more information about the Middle Tennessee Science and Engineering Fair, go to www.apsu.edu/mtsef or telephone Robertson at (931) 221-6298. -- Dennie B. Burke