Pleasanton Weekly

Column - March 13, 2009

Budding young scientists star at Science Fair

by Jeb Bing

If you like science projects at the elementary level, the Alameda County Fairgrounds is the place to be next Tuesday night. More than 11,000 are expected to turn out for the 10th annual Science Fun Fair, an event featuring kindergarten through fifth-grade students and their science projects from all of the elementary schools in Pleasanton and Dublin. Even if you're not thrilled by the periodic erupting of a small volcano model one fourth-grade student had last year, you'd no doubt be awed as I was by the professionalism of his presentation and ability to quickly answer questions from those of us watching. A kindergartener--mind you, she had just turned 6!--showed us how a white rose turned to the color of the solution she placed it in. I was as proud as she was in the way she described what was happening, and I didn't even know her name. In the next row, a fifth-grader talked about what causes things to degrade and showed a series of pictures he had taken through a microscope that demonstrated the gradual decomposing process. What a "find" he'll be in the not-too-distant future when a top college interviews him for an engineering scholarship.

These fairs were started by Dave and Karen Rodriguez after they moved to Pleasanton from Santa Clara and brought the science fair concept from the schools there. They started at Lydiksen Elementary, where over the years their four children have attended, and in the second year had 4,000 attending the school's science fair. Karen Rodriguez, a well-known Girl Scout leader in Pleasanton, talked the fairgrounds into becoming a sponsor of a district-wide science fair as a community service project, and it's grown every year since. On Monday, more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, technology professionals and other volunteers will interview science fair participants at their schools in Dublin and Pleasanton, giving these students an opportunity to explain their projects, helping them with the presentations they will make to the public on Tuesday and building their confidence. Then on Tuesday, more than 4,000 projects will be transported over to the fairgrounds by parent volunteers, who will also help set up their student's booth and ready the research project for show that night. The two-hour fair begins at 7 p.m. for parents, friends, teachers and elementary school students. For security purposes, the fair is not open to the general public although passes can be obtained in person and with identification at any of the elementary schools.

Just as interesting as the kindergarten through fifth-grade projects are related activities by corporate and nonprofit sponsors of the event, which now number 41. It's a rare chance to see Carl Zeiss Meditec scientists demonstrating some of their latest medical technologies and Clorox will surely have the fair jumping with its energetic bangs and explosions. The Lawrence Hall of Science, Oakland Zoo, ValleyCare Health System and Thoratec Corporation are returning this year with new and innovative displays. First-time exhibitors this year include the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, which will be demonstrating infrared imaging, and the Bay Area Orienting Club, which will teach kids about the science of maps and compass with a mini-orienting course.

Karen Rodriguez also will have some of her Girl Scouts with her at four different booths with displays on malnutrition and nutrition, geology activities and on how all of us can help the environment. Hopefully, they'll also have some cookies to pass out. Also returning to this year's Science Fun Fair will be the Rodriguez' four children who tested their scientific abilities at some of the earlier fairs when they were students at Lydiksen. They are Deborah, now a senior at Chico State; Michael, who is at the U.S. military academy at West Point; his twin sister Michelle who will be a junior at Chico, and Rebecca, now in the eighth grade at Hart Middle School, who will attend Foothill High starting in August.


Posted by Ann, a resident of West of Foothill
on Apr 1, 2009 at 4:20 pm

With all the budget restrictions, how is it possible that there is so much spent on an "optional" event? Apparently, the person in charge has other ideas?

Posted by been there, a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Apr 2, 2009 at 11:19 am

This happened weeks ago, it's an old story. It was a great event, my daughter had a blast.

Ann, it was put on by community volunteers and local business, the fairgrounds donated the spaces.

Posted by getwithitalready!, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2009 at 9:38 am

So what if it happened weeks ago? If it is something the school community may be considering to do again next year, then it is a legitimate concern. Money and cost is obviously a factor here. You may want to check with the fairgrounds just HOW MUCH the "donated" spaces cost. Considering the serious budget crisis PUSD continues to advertise, perhaps some serious thought of even "great events" as posted by Been There need to be reconsidered?

Posted by been there, a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Apr 5, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Ummmm, NO I will not 'reconsider' my post. Instead of searching through these old posts and ranting on what I wrote why don't you get out and volunteer at the next one like I will so you can see how it works, you will feel pretty silly about what you wrote. I'm sure the children of the Pleasanton and Dublin school districts will thank you for helping out at such a fun event, so volunteer and do some good for YOUR community and the kids. Thank you and have a good night.

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