Strasburg students showcase their science projects in Phoenix, Ariz.
Approximately 20 students and 15 science instructors and adults from North Dakota boarded a bus headed for Phoenix, Ariz., in May to attend the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). At the State Science Fair in Grand Forks on April 4 and 5, Seniors Kellie Tougas and Matthew Schaefbauer placed first and second respectively in the senior division and advanced to ISEF to present their projects. Freshman Shantel Lang was chosen as an alternate and was an observer.
The three students from Strasburg represented the Southwest Central Region. They were accompanied by Strasburg Science Teacher Mr. Bill Malaski.
Parents of the students are TomandShelleySchaefbauer, Don and Lonna Tougas and Todd and Terri Lang.
On Fri., May 10, they boarded the bus in Bismarck at 11 a.m. and remained on that bus for nearly 25 hours. The first site they visited was the Grand Canyon on Saturday.
Schaefbauer said it was the highlight of the trip.
“We walked on narrow ridges, and on both sides, there would be a 50-foot drop,” Schaefbauer said.
All three Strasburg students ventured out on the steep cliffs, while a few others decided to stay back. The three agreed it was fun and was also a good time to get to know some of the other students.
After hiking in Grand Canyon for three hours, they boarded the bus to Williams, Ariz. They traveled down Route 66, also known as the Main Street of America, one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System. The students thought it was a pretty neat place.
On Sunday, they arrived in Phoenix, and had time to set up their projects in the Expo Center. Schaefbauer had a delay, as the ISEF Review Committee believed he had a science violation.
“I sat and waited in the violations line for a very long time while everybody else was enjoying lunch,” Schaefbauer joked.
The ISEF Review Committee insisted they did not receive his human subject forms in the mail, but, fortunately, Schaefbauer had copies with him. Students with violations that are not resolved are disqualified.
The students said the science projects that are presented are amazing, and there are students who actually drop out of high school for a time to work on their projects. About 1,500 students from over 70 countries, regions and territories and the 50 states present their projects. They said it was so awesome to meet people from all over the world.
“The Slovakians were really interesting,” Schaefbauer said. “They were fun to talk with as they had a real deep accent and they were jokesters. One of them actually wrote a story about me that was bashing me!”
“I did that in the past years, and I still keep in contact with some of them,” he said.
On Sunday evening, the students enjoyed a “mixer and pin exchange.” The three students each purchased 250 North Dakota pins, and at the pin exchange, they traded those pins with students from all over the world. Some traded items such as sunglasses, bracelets, pencils, bouncy balls and Velcro patches, and the Russians even traded money.
“That was so much fun, and I traded my first 20 pins in five minutes,” Lang said. “And we also met some Germans, and we asked ‘Wie Gehts?’”
On Monday, they visited the Phoenix Zoo where they saw many different animals that they do not normally see in zoos in North Dakota.
The Opening Ceremony was held on Monday evening. Entertainment was provided by dancers from the Phoenix area, who performed with ribbons and brightly colored lighting.Also on that evening, each country was represented on stage by having a student carry their country’s banner while a video was shown saying “hello” in their language. The guest speaker was Adam Deidrich Stelzner, a NASA Rocket Engineer.
On Tuesday afternoon, they saw many varieties of cacti and plants at the Desert Botanical Gardens. In the evening, they enjoyed a baseball game at Chase Field as the Diamondbacks played the Atlanta Braves.
“The pressure is on as these judges have their PhDs, and many of them are also the CEOs of major businesses,” Tougas said. “My judges were chemists, and lots of them were from the colleges.”
Schaefbauer added, “I had a judge from Google and one from Cisco.”
After a full day of presenting their projects, they were ready for some fun and enjoyed a night of dancing.
On Thursday, the ISEF Expo was open to the public. Alternates were asked to volunteer at booths at the Public Education Outreach Day when students from elementary, middle and high schools viewed the science projects and visited scientific stations. Lang’s station was forensic, where kids had to solve a murder by recreating blood spatter patterns with paint, hammers, wrenches and screwdrivers.
The Special Awards were held on Thursday evening, and GrandAwards on Friday; however, the Strasburg students departed on the airplane to North Dakota by 5 a.m. Friday as they needed to get back for graduation, so they missed the Grand Awards.
All three students said it was an amazing experience.
“I enjoyed it very much, and like so many others, I feel it is better than a family vacation!” Tougas said. “You get to meet so many people, and the experiences are one-of-akind. I hope some day I can be a judge at Internationals.”
“It gave me the opportunity to explore new places and new ideas, and you get to meet so many new people,” Schaefbauer said. “These are friends you stay in touch with, and it is so interesting finding out what is going on in their world.”
“It was high energy and was fun to meet people from all over the world,” Lang said. “As an alternate, it was a good experience because you get a feel of how Internationals work, and you gain an understanding of how to present your science project for the possibility of returning in the future.”
Tougas will be attending the University of North Dakota this fall, majoring in psychology. Schaefbauer will be attending the University of Mary, majoring in computer information systems and information technology management.
The students are very grateful to the individuals, businesses and the Strasburg School for their support for providing financial funds so they could participate in these learning experiences at ISEF each year.
Donations were received from the Regional Science Fair Committee, Strasburg Public School, Strasburg State Bank, Sayler Implement, Strasburg Ampride, The Quencher, The Blue Room, Scherr’s Meats, Keller Hardware, Emmons County Record, Dave Beastrom, Schmidt Inc., Linton Hospital and Clinics and Kimble’s Guns and Repair.