On Thursday, Sept. 13, 100 high school students from across Atlanta Public Schools helped bring their scientific ideas to life during the launch of the international Google Science Fair at the King Plow Arts Center.
A global, worldwide online science competition sponsored by Google, Lego, Virgin Galactic, National Geographic and Scientific American, the Google Science Fair is designed to inspire teens around the world to solve real-world problems through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
Students from B.E.S.T. Academy, Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy, Benjamin E. Mays, Therrell, North Atlanta, Grady and Maynard Jackson high schools participated in hands-on, interactive activities to help them brainstorm fun and innovative project ideas for this year’s competition. Throughout the day, students worked in teams to complete activities such as purifying water, building a better insulator, and creating blades for windmills to determine the amount of energy needed.
Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen, APS staff, Google representatives, and members of the Georgia House Science and Technology Committee were also on hand to celebrate the occasion.
Dr. Rabieh Hafza, APS science coordinator for grades 6-12, said the event was specifically designed to get students inspired about science and to begin thinking about problem solving.
“Often, kids don’t have the resources to do a science fair project, but this event provides them with an opportunity to do it online, at their house, or wherever, and it tends to remove all the barriers that might be there,” Dr. Hafza said. “We are trying to do that for our kids as well. Some of our students have great ideas … they just need to put it on paper and get it out there. These challenges will get them geared up and excited about science. I hope they go back and say, ‘this was an amazing event. I’m going to do the online science competition.'”
One of those students is Osazi Alkhaliq, a senior at Maynard Jackson High School. On Thursday, he and his three teammates were busy forming layers of sand, aluminum foil, tissue paper and cotton, all in an attempt to build a better insulator.
“It’s fun, and it helped spark a lot of creativity,” said Osazi, president of the award-winning Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project team, who has plans to study biochemistry in college. “Our team was able to bounce ideas off of each other.”
Other students like Kiki Sofo, a junior at Grady High School, and fellow junior David Eleby of North Atlanta High School were busy purifying water using a coffee filter, a cut-out water bottle, charcoal and sand. The activity was designed to filter out the sand and mix it with other items to to help purify the water.
“It’s a really good opportunity to learn,” said Lindsey Curtis, a sophomore at Grady High School.
Dr. Hafza said he hopes the event will continue to inspire students to think big and see themselves as scientists.
“I hope this helps them realize that you don’t have to look like Albert Einstein to be a scientist,” he said. “It’s all about identity.”