By Chris Casey | University Communications
DENVER - The annual science fair is not only a fun place to see youngsters' scientific projects, it's also fertile ground to find students who may end up in classrooms at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus.
That's all the motivation Allegra Melillo, MD, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine in the School of Medicine, needs to serve as a volunteer judge for a second time at the Denver Metro Regional Science and Engineering Fair. The fair takes place today and Thursday at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
"It's a wonderful way for faculty from the University of Colorado Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus to connect with students from the Denver metro areas," Melillo said.
This year's fair drew a record 620 middle- and high-school participants -- representing metro-area public school districts and charter schools -- competing in 14 categories of science discipline.
"The kids have a blast -- they have a great time," said Kris Wenzel, fair co-director and executive director of the Central Area Health Education Center. The University of Colorado AHEC program office and University of Colorado Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences joined multiple private, public and nonprofit entities as fair sponsors.
Some winners advance to state and international science fair competitions. Wenzel said the university invites top finishers to a research symposium held each spring.
Melillo directs the Aurora LIGHTS program, a health career pipeline for educationally and economically disadvantaged students that operates under the Colorado AHEC umbrella. Many students who are part of Aurora LIGHTS also entered projects in the science fair.
"It gives them the skills and knowledge to help them succeed in their education, and also to achieve and go on to health careers in the future," Melillo said said of Aurora LIGHTS.
Patrick Christensen and Lauren Nguyen, both sophomores at Hinkley High School in Aurora, showed Melillo their physics project entitled "Controlling Operations on Moving Platforms."
Working on the science project "prepares us for doing this kind of study again and having to present it to people," Christensen said.
(Photo: Allegra Melillo, an assistant professor in the School of Medicine, left, views the science fair project created by Lauren Nguyen and Patrick Christensen, both sophomores at Hinkley High School in Aurora, at the Denver Metro Regional Science and Engineering Fair.)