High school students from around the world gathered at Niagara University May 29–June 3 for the International Student Science Fair, where they engaged in scientific research, education, and fellowship. This is only the second time the event was held in the U.S.
Lewiston-Porter Senior High School, which has been participating in the ISSF since 2011, hosted the fair in partnership with Niagara University and D’Youville College. The annual event brings together talented high school science students, teachers, and school leaders to share and develop the learning and teaching of science research and education.
Students from 14 schools that are part of the International Student Science Network participated in this year’s event, coming from Canada, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States (students from Australia and Macau joined virtually). They, and their teachers and administrators who accompanied them, lived in on-campus housing and ate their meals in the university’s Dining Commons during their stay.
Michelle Hinchliffe, chemistry teacher at Lewiston Porter High School, was one of the lead organizers of this year’s fair. She noted that the fair was offered virtually in 2021 because of the COVID pandemic.
“Everyone was excited this year for us to host in person,” she said, adding that about 60 international students attended with about 24 of their teachers and principals. Although the gathering was smaller than in years past due to lingering pandemic restrictions, she said they were happy that they were able to “come together as a scientific community for a week.”
Students shared the research they performed during the 2021-2022 school year through poster and oral presentations in the Gallagher Center Multipurpose Room. Most of the research focused on the fair’s theme of global sustainability and environmental stewardship. Projects included a low-cost water treatment filtration system for use in developing countries without access to clean water, a biodegradable plastic made from potatoes, and a walker with legs that automatically adjusted to changes in the height of the terrain. Other students presented projects which used the chemical polarity of microplastics to attract these nanoparticles through carbon rods to filter drinking water, and which investigated if forest fires caused underground plastic water lines to leach toxic chemicals into the water supply. Faculty from Niagara University and other area colleges and universities judged the presentations.
Because intercultural understanding is also a goal of the ISSF, the visiting students participated in a number of activities intended to develop friendships among them.
“We know we have a lot of problems globally in terms of the environment and community and that it’s going to take a global effort to solve them,” Hinchliffe said. “We try to get the kids to come together to create these connections early, so they already have a relationship with somebody in a different country that maybe will help them work on that upper-level problem that they might address in a lab as they get to be adults.”
Students took science excursions to local attractions and organizations such as the Niagara Gorge, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, and Old Fort Niagara, where they learned concepts that they put into practice back on campus later that day. They also shared their culture through games, food, and dance. One activity that was particularly enjoyable was ice skating at Niagara University’s Dwyer Arena.
“Some of these kids never saw ice before,” Hinchliffe said. “I think that’s the fun part about this—having kids experience something that they don’t necessarily get to experience back home.
“It’s just an amazing program which we, at Lew-Port, are lucky to be a part of,” she continued, “and we wouldn’t have been able to do it if NU and D’Youville hadn’t partnered with us. I think it shows a strong commitment from our higher education universities to facilitate these experiences above and beyond the traditional high school classroom.”
Next year’s event will be held at Queensland Academy for Science, Mathematics and Technology in Queensland, Australia.