The Science Fair of the Future

Sunny Aggarwal
04/12/2013
The Spread of Science in a Real Time-Action Event!

Executive Summary

Discourse communities have been on the rise for years now and analysis of their functional behavior in society been studied by a plethora of literary experts such as: John Swales, Anna Johns, and others. Since such a diversity of these communities exist (including: academic, group of musicians, and others), a study of a real-time action science and engineering fair, NYCSEF, has been discussed. Data sources for this fair have been gathered from my previous experiences and through my science research coordinator’s view of the value of these competitions. Through this variety of information, the different stages that students from all around their High Schools have to accomplish in order to participate in this fair are interrelated in this study to discourse communities. Their high-level scientific research projects to compete for the top merits has led to a variety of discussed factors of discourse communities that were conveyed in the literary experts’ views. In addition to its purpose, the fair’s value and importance of these works are displayed through the coordinator’s interview. Hence, the paper shows that through the analysis of all the data, the fair’s key goals for these scientists form a strong basis for NYCSEF as an epitome live discourse community event!

Introduction

Discussed in specialized articles by literary scholars, discourse communities represent a fundamental basis for society. One such scholar analyzes them being specialized forms of communities that fulfill these six criteria: set of common goals, mechanisms of intercommunication between members, information and feedback can be provided, utilization of various genres, specialized lexis (terminology such as abbreviations and/or certain phrases), and an adequate amount of members (Swales, 1990). Variations of this form of discourse communities are discovered through the work of Gee (Gee, 1989): involvement a set of ideals, social hierarchy, and others. Hence, such a broad term of discourse community can be broken down into a plethora of forms such as: academia, group of jazz members in a band, and etc.

Even though numerous of these discourse communities disperse throughout society, young people/educators understate the importance of science. In fact, to be able to even think of it as one grandeur discourse community would be a heck of an arduous analysis. Hence, I focus on a very specific yet a deep real time-action community that encompasses these scientists and entails a great perspective/view of science. Such communities include: professors’ laboratories, NYCSEF (a regional science-math competition, refer to Appendix A for more information), a scientific judging room, or even simply a class of young scientists. Hence, this study fulfills this niche of analyzing science as a grandeur and innovative community that surrounds all of us!

Methodology

My previous experiences throughout High School and lower-level schools of research, my deep participation (able to achieve higher levels within the competition and through volunteering) in NYCSEF and research in professional scientific laboratories enabled me to complete a thorough analysis of this discourse community. My group and I have done research of science in different fields from the animal science (of a thorough study of plants and bacteria) to the physical sciences (laboratory work with optics and nanotechnology). From this background of knowledge attained from this research, my group went on to participate in various science competitions such as: New York City Science and Engineering Fair (NYCSEF), Siemens Competition, Junior Science and Humanities Symposia (JSHS), and etc. In NYCSEF, we have earned much recognition in receiving high-level awards including entrance into the International Science and Engineering Fair. After these award-winning experiences, I was eager into volunteering for the different rounds in NYCSEF. Cumulatively, all of these valuable skills of community service and science research for the fair that were achieved from my experiences led to a plethora of data.

However, since a narrow perspective may cause some biases in the data, an interview (refer to Appendix B for the interview script) with the science research program coordinator of Francis Lewis High School, my High School, was conducted. She would provide a more experienced professional view of this scientific community and the results would convey a more complete view of not just the purpose of this competition but also its significant value in society. She has have had experience in teaching the science research class for more than 5 years now and learned the key factors into a great scientific researcher. Cumulatively, such well-known resources would not only provide a basis for a variety of data collection but also provide a greater insight into science fairs as imperative communities!

Observations and Results

As I roamed around online forums and discussions with my friends, a common thought that is pervasive throughout society is: “Science is too broad of a community. It is way too difficult to focus on it as just one discourse community.” While this may be partially true, science has its sparks in certain areas than others such as in NYCSEF. However, there are certain stages that young scientists endure through in order to approach that high level. The preliminary step includes working in science research laboratories, where professors and students of various grade levels interact with real world hands-on experience to produce an object/idea that has a meaningful impact on society. Though the community of laboratories is quite large, they all are dispersed for a key point: to spread awareness of the benefits of science throughout the world.

Such a key point of these science communities displays the main concepts of discourse communities. By being able to communicate professionally in the laboratory with one another, there is a shared lexis and genre that is conveyed. For example, several friends who have worked with one of the Ph.D. professors in High School stated that working with such professionals was like being in a team of clever scientists. Formal communication skills and an emphasis on a great amount of dedication/commitment needed were placed. Hence, these discourses relay that the dependence of one another’s membership is essential for success.

Whenever these students perform such high-level research in these laboratories, they become eager for earning a form of merit for their work. Hence, through their science research classrooms, they participate in nationwide science competitions and anticipate for the results of them. Meanwhile, the community still thrives due to the greater input of genres (i.e. physical sciences, animal sciences, and others) that other lower-level students may wish to study on. This all-around, societal effect causes a discerning academic level among them from the others.
Levels like this not only can boost today’s education but also it represents America in a better manner.

Such an exemplified effect can be conveyed through high-level science research competitions that have a great impression on one’s parents and college administrative staff. NYCSEF, an annual regional science competition, exceeds this level by enticing students to enter and compete for a high merit award (up to 4,000,000 dollars). Run by an organized staff of people, applications are posted online for students in the NYC region to compete for the best scientific idea that they experimented on in those professional laboratory communities!

Reviewed by a group of scientific review people (another discourse community on its own by Swales as these specialized people follow the “rules” for this scientific method), the acceptance letters are sent out and a plethora of cries and excitement fills the houses of NYC. Preparation for the boards occur and after the diligent work in putting it together/practicing presentations, the finalized versions of them go onto the Great Hall in City College. A revitalized community is brought into place!

A room full of clever scientists encompasses the atmosphere and the administrative staff of NYCSEF walks around to see their great achievements. One such time occurred with me as my group worked with professional researchers in creating an impactful Physics project. By being able to attain the top prizes then, our science research program coordinator was filled with joy. Since these achievements spoke to me throughout my life, I remembered of how she was always the strong basis for these merits. Her notion of a strong scientific community is based on principles of determination and diligent work: “Being accepted means that the student had an opportunity to perform a hands on experiment and got to do science. This is the first step in learning to love science.” With this context, this scientific writing encompasses a major value in the society. Not only is this idea shown through my experiences but also through the science research coordinator’s view. “If done correctly, the scientific method stands to answer how, what and certainly why. Over the years, the order of the scientific method has stayed the same but the techniques and the literature have tremendously expanded.”

Plethora of genres can be conveyed through this technique of writing in a scientific method form. For example, some papers may simply analyze a topic and discuss its importance in society while others might discover a new technique/method for a major world problem. Hence, through these different “intentions” of writing, a variety of genres are exposed to readers. In fact, the judges base their interests on these genres in order to analyze it better for content and style. After their impressions and grading have been completed, the eager scientists anticipate for the results to see if they are able to advance into higher-level rounds and earning higher amounts of merit!

Discussions

Conveyed from the plethora of scientific mindedness in the science room, NYCSEF develops to be one of the most important discourse communities in society. The diverse genres that are utilized in submitting these scientific papers to the competition require a lot of diligent effort/commitment, which directly references to the literary work of Anna M. Johns (Johns M. 1997) as a key factor in academic discourse communities. Based on these results, a very convenient factor that is well known from these competitions that scientists are not in conflict with each other rather they are quite friendly by providing verbal, prose feedback among one another. This exchange of information allows this feedback mechanism to be very pervasive and beneficial!

Such a friendly atmosphere of science not only diffuses around the fair but also through the media (i.e. television, interviews, and etc.)! This shared vast information promotes a common interest of learning and using it to better impact society. Various discourse communities of specialized terminology and genres arise from this interest. An example of this expression of this knowledge can be seen through the scientific papers that people of all ages write (i.e. the research papers in NYCSEF). Supporters of competitions which promote this effect even state, “This can certainly boost confidence and help to fuel a further passion in science and also the confirmation to pursue science, engineering, research or medicine in the future.”

Conclusions

LIGHTS! SCIENCE! ACTION! NYCSEF embraces many of the brilliant, young scientists that exhibit many of the cooperative and feedback qualities that Anna Johns and John Swales emphasize to be very important components for discourse communities. In addition, this real-time action of a community has a shared lexis that is shared among the students and the judges displays a very specialized community that really defines the difference between a true scientist versus any outsider. Though it may seem a bit threatening to these outsiders, they are willing to learn the basic ideals of this fair! The large numbers that grow annually for this event display a true reawakening of this community and these masses of scientists that enter make not just the schools proud but also to the society!

Appendix A

Here is some detailed information about NYCSEF about some general information and its value in society:

http://collegenow.cuny.edu/sciencefair/

Appendix B

A sample of the interview script with the coordinator can be seen here:

What kinds of communications do high school students/researchers perform in science fairs (i.e. primarily NYCSEF)? Is there any specific reason for them? Why or Why not?

At NYCSEF, we combine visual and oral communication. Students are judged on both the quality of their board and of their presentations to the judges. This seems like a very good way to differentiate between the students who can write about science and those who can both write and talk about science in a charismatic way. Judges want to know that students can speak unrehearsed about their project with maturity and with the expression that they truly understand what they did, why they did it and how their project can have a societal impact.

In particular, what value does this fair have for these students since almost 8000 of them applied to their respective science fair every year (i.e. NYSSEF, LISEF, and other fairs around the world)?

Applying is only half the battle. Being accepted means to the student that they are at a competitive level in their scientific knowledge and writing. This can certainly boost confidence and help to fuel a further passion in science and also the confirmation to pursue science, engineering, research or medicine in the future. Being accepted means that the student had an opportunity to perform hands on experiment and got to do science. This is the first step in learning to love science.

What forms of writing do these "young scientists" commonly do? What are the purposes of this form of writing and how have they evolved over the years? (Being a science research teacher over the years)

I guess it's called scientific writing. On the surface, they use the scientific method to organize and separate their writing into sections. But more importantly, they begin to fully understand the circle and cycle that science takes from asking a question, researching the previous suggested answers and testing a new answer that they have hypothesized. If done correctly, the scientific method stands to answer how, what and certainly why. Over the years, the order of the scientific method has stayed the same but the techniques and the literature have tremendously expanded.

Works Cited

1. Gee, J. P. (1989). Literacy, discourse, and linguistics: Introduction and what is literacy? (1st ed., Vol. 171, pp. 525-547). Los Angeles: Journal of Education. Retrieved from
<http://lucchesi-sp13.wdfiles.com/local--files/reflective-annotated-bibliography/Gee.Discourse.pdf>
2. Swales, John. “The Concept of Discourse Community.” Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. Boston: Cambridge UP, 1990. 21-32. Print.
3. Johns, A. M. (1997). Text, role, and context. (pp. 51-70). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from
<http://lucchesi-sp13.wdfiles.com/local--files/reflective-annotated-bibliography/j0hns.pdf>
4. Weissman, F. (2013, April 01). Interview by S.A. Aggarwal.

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