Senior-level Chicago-area scientists were the judges at the Julian Symposium (science competitions) April 25 at Oak Park and River Forest High School. “The goal is to have science students defend a scientific premise in public,” according to Norm Teclaw, president of ISET (Institute for Science Education and Technology). A symposium is a meeting of high school research-minded students, science research students who for the past year have been working on one specific project and have now come together to share their research results.

It is important because a symposium mimics the way adult scientists and science itself work these days. Research today is shared, and the symposium is linked to Percy Julian because they are sharing the story of the late Dr. Julian, holder of 110 patents. The symposiums were started in the year 2000, so Saturday, April 25 was the 10th anniversary for ISET.

Duncan Hutcheon and Norb Teclaw got together to start ISET for the digital age. Dr. Percy Lavon Julian lived in Oak Park from 1950 until his death in 1975. His accomplishments in science and in civil rights are well known in this community.

The symposium has been at OPRF High School each year for the past 10 years, from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. in the high school library. That Saturday began with Kent Taylor’s “Observations on global warming.” At 9 a.m. students began the science research presentations in one of the library rooms or areas. The top seven of these presentations were selected by judges as the best work. Sixteen judges had earlier agreed to be present to view, hear and assess the various student efforts. A health break followed at 10 a.m.

A panel of adult scientists then spoke about the value of a high school science education and how they got into a science career, and some discussed how they changed from one profession to another while benefiting from science training. The panel included a mix of scientists and a good number of science teachers.

For the first time this year there were two parts to the symposium, non-competitive and competitive. The first place prize went to Terrence George from Lincoln Park High School who walked away with the $1,000 award from Jenner and Block along with $600 from ISET. Other awards were for $400 and $250, plus four $100 awards.

Roosevelt Middle School in River Forest sent one competitor, and there also were students from Whitney Young High School, Fenwick High School, OPRF High School, Lincoln Park High School and Providence St. Mel High School.

Presentation titles included: mitochondria calcium dynamics; improving stream aeration; head and spine injury prevention; menstrual cycle and depression at age 14-15; efficiencies in waste water treatment; and chlorinating swimming pools.

Next year the plan is to include at least two more high schools and to attract more students from each participating school. ISET board members also plan to continue the search for qualified judges. For more information, please contact John Costopoulos, the lead science teacher at OPRF High School,

-Lee Brooke

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