The North Carolina Student Academy of Sciences Competition (NCSAS) isn’t your typical science fair. On Feb. 24, 2017 top high school and middle school students in Western North Carolina presented their in-depth, original research at the UNC Asheville, vying for the opportunity to take their work to the state-level competition.
“Regional middle school and high school students conduct original research and present in the way that it would be presented in a professional meeting, rather than as a poster at a science fair,” said Caroline Kennedy, lecturer in biology at UNC Asheville and NCSAS co-coordinator with Associate Professor of Biology Becca Hale. “They’re giving formal presentation about research, and getting really dedicated, constructive feedback from professionals in the field.”
More than 60 students from Brevard High School, Hanger Hall Middle School, and Nesbitt Discovery Academy participated in the NCSAS competition this year, which was the seventh consecutive year the competition has been hosted by UNC Asheville. The students conducted research in chemistry, environmental science, biotechnology, mathematics, behavioral science, biological science, earth and space, engineering and technology, and computer science.
Local science professionals, UNC Asheville faculty members and biology students all contributed feedback to the budding scientists. Marietta Cameron, chair and associate professor of computer science at UNC Asheville, served as one of the competition’s judges.
“To expose young people earlier to scientific research, to expose them earlier to what scientific writing is, that compliments what they’re learning in the their middle schools and high schools,” Cameron said. “It also instills confidence and self-esteem in our young people, that they can stand in front of their peers and other researchers and explain their work and get feedback from it.”
Kennedy echoed the importance of introducing students to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields at an early age.
“This is where you really start supporting them,” Kennedy said, “and having them recognize that this is an exciting career, something they’re capable of doing, and introducing them to UNC Asheville as a place where this happens.”
The state level competition takes place at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. The most outstanding high school students are awarded a subsidized trip to the American Association for the Advancement of Science /American Junior Academy of Science (AAAS/AJAS) annual meeting, and the Charles Lytle Scholarship is awarded to an outstanding high school senior.
For more information about NCSAS, visit www.ncsas.org.