Students get ‘virtual’ help with science projects

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Dr. Nelson Ying Tri Region Science & Engineering Fair partners with icouldbe.org

“Through this inspiring endeavor by two unique partners, we can help improve science education. Better education in science and in ethics can help to create a better world.” - Dr. Nelson Ying

Next month on Saturday and Sunday, March 17-18, middle and high school students from 24 counties in upstate New York will gather to compete at the Dr. Nelson Ying Tri Region Science & Engineering Fair (Ying TRSEF). The fair, which is held in Syracuse, was created to allow students to explore their talents and challenge their minds in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). This year however, a group of students will have the help of eMentors during the creation of their science projects.

After several years of running the fair, Ying TRSEF found a hurdle – how can they provide access to ongoing support for the students who want to learn more about science? Mary Eileen Wood, the director of Ying TRSEF, then discovered icouldbe.org, a not-for-profit online mentoring platform. icouldbe.org pairs students with volunteer eMentors from all over the country to cultivate meaningful relationships and support students in their journey towards graduation and the college or career path.

Ying TRSEF is engaging in a pilot program with icouldbe.org to provide students building their science projects with volunteer eMentors employed in STEM careers. These volunteers will mentor the students through the process of preparing for the March 17th fair. Using the icouldbe.org discussion boards, each mentor will help her mentee identify the science fair topic/question, make a plan to gather data to answer said question, understand ethical and safety procedures and analyze data and draw conclusions.

At the conclusion of the fair, mentors and mentees will continue the mentoring partnership by transitioning to the icouldbe.org curriculum. The mentors will then guide students through units that will help them identify future goals specific to post-secondary education and careers in various sectors.

Dr. Nelson Ying, the naming sponsor of the annual science fair and of the Ying STEM Portal, explained the benefits of the partnership for students interested in STEM career fields: “It has been said that ‘a mind is a terrible thing to waste.’ Now with the partnership between icouldbe.org and the Dr. Nelson Ying Tri Region Science and Engineering Fair, we can create a STEM portal that opens new realms of opportunity to our youth. Not living close to a research university will no longer be a barrier for young men and women eager to obtain quality science education that includes precollegiate research experiences.

“Equally important is the ethical training of these future scientists and engineers. The Ying TRSEF’s regional Ying Scholars and local Ernstsons winners are selected because their research could, if continued, make the world a better place. These prizes emphasize to our youth how their gifts of talent and knowledge and their determination to succeed are best balanced with a clear understanding of the impact of their work.

“Through this inspiring endeavor by two unique partners, we can help improve science education. Better education in science and in ethics can help to create a better world.”

To find out more information about Ying TRSEF and the upcoming fair, visit http://www.YingTRSEF.org. For more details on icouldbe.org or to become an eMentor, visit http://www.icouldbe.org.

About icouldbe.org
icouldbe.org is an award-winning online mentoring program connecting high school students from diverse communities with mentors from across the country, cultivating meaningful relationships between students and e-mentors, to explore their interests and dreams for the future. Since 2000, icouldbe.org has used their research-backed curriculum to help 20,000 students discover their passions and take action to realize their career and educational goals. To learn more about icouldbe.org’s services or to become a mentor yourself, log onto http://www.icouldbe.org.

About Ying TRSEF
The Ying TRSEF serves 24 "orphaned counties" of Upstate NY, which until 2006 had no regional access to the International Science and Engineering Fair, founded in 1950. Since 1960, some NYS students have participated in regional science fairs. Finally, now the Ying TRSEF can bring 250,000 Upstate students in grades 5-12 this powerful chance for unique discovery experiences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Using Fair Weekend as the catalyst, we capture the passion and imagination of children and connect them with adults eager to "pass the torch" of their knowledge. "Science fair kids" challenge their minds, apply the skills they learn in school, "try on" possible careers ... and have fun. The Ying TRSEF also offers real advantages to communities and industries that recognize future workforce needs and want to act now to fill the STEM pipeline.

The Ying TRSEF engages young people in the discovery of science and technology. It is affordable for parents, youth organizations, and school districts in Western NY, the North Country and the Southern Tier. For more information, visit http://www.YingTRSEF.org.

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Alicia DeMartini

Mary Eileen Wood
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