After Two Years Behind a Screen, Science Fair is Held In-Person

Akira Pescador

For the first time in two years, the Mililani High School science fair was held on-campus for students to present their projects to the judges in person. Live presentations occurred on January 12, 2022 from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. and were spread out across various classrooms for COVID-19 safety reasons. Following the school-level competition, 20 projects were chosen to compete in the Central Oahu District Science and Engineering Fair.
“Definitely find a project you’re interested in, or it’s going to be a lot of work you’re not going to enjoy,” said sophomore Belise Swartwood.
On February 7, 2022, 10 MHS students were selected to participate in the Hawaii State Science and Engineering Fair. Despite initially not expecting much from entering, Swartwood was one of two students from the 10 qualifiers to be directly invited to compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair. Senior Collin Horiuchi also received an invitation to the international-level competition for his project Analyzing the Ease of Digestion in Dogs through the Absorbency of Different Types of Dog Breeds.
“I suppose in terms of what I enjoy about the science fair, it’s actually seeing the diversity of projects that students come up with. And seeing that some of them come up with some really, really unique ideas,” said MHS science fair coordinator and science teacher John Sandvig. “And some of them are just super excited about their project, they come in, and they could tell you all about their project. If you gave them an hour, they could just go on and on and on.”
Swartwood’s project Comparing Neural Network Strategies to Label Tricuspid Valve on MRI Images concerns the use of computer programs in analyzing pre-labeled MRI scans done by radiologists to identify certain structures in unlabeled scans. In other words, Swartwood was coding a program that does the job of a radiologist by using their pre-existing work as a basis. Working through frequent coding issues and balancing the science fair with the MHS swim team, Swartwood credits her success to her time management skills and sense of dedication.
“We are looking to see, are they showing true scientific merit? Have they gone through the process? Were they meticulous with that process? Have they done their research? Do they know what the meaning of their data is? What does that tell them? What are the potential applications?” said Sandvig. “You don’t need to be a senior in AP Biology to do that, you could be a freshman in Biology and still be able to do things that are very much at the same level.”
Both Sandvig and Swartwood have highly recommended choosing a project based on personal interest, with Sandvig going as far to say that doing so is a trait always found in what he regards as successful projects. To elaborate, students who are passionate about their chosen topic are often more motivated to put extra effort into their work. Swartwood, for example, was on the MHS Coding Club team when they won first place in the 2021 Hawaii Annual Coding Challenge and is considering pursuing a career in the medical field.
For additional information regarding important dates, the organization behind the fair, and more, visit https://www.hawaiiacademyofscience.org/hawaii-science-fair.