West Po Students Honored at FCPS Regional Science Fair: One of the First Virtual Events During the Coronavirus Outbreak


Sarah Veale

Photo was taken at the West Po Science Fair in January

West Po students honored at FCPS Regional Science Fair: One of the First Virtual Events During the Coronavirus Outbreak 

Way back in the beginning of this COVID-19 outbreak, the Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) district regional science fair that gathers students from all of the FCPS high schools to show off their impressive scientific experiments was one of the very first events to go virtual. 


As a result, the Fairfax County school system decided to host an online science fair in which students pre-recorded videos about their projects. The recordings could be no longer than 3 minutes and were sent to the judges via email because of all the restrictions in place. 


Given these unusual conditions, it is worth asking whether the science fair was indeed fair?  Some of the participants believed that they were disadvantaged due to the strict 3-minute time limit on their videos, which some felt wasn’t enough time to convey properly the full description of the project. “It meant that careful planning was essential because your presentation skills were an important part of the judging process,” said Reilly Clautice, a junior at West Potomac High School.


Another area of concern was the inability of students to participate in a question and answer session, which is a common feature during the judging process in years past. As there were no questions to be asked by the judges it was hard to gauge whether the judges fully understood the experiments or whether they found the experiment interesting, said Jack Taylor, a first-place recipient for the high school fair and a third-place finisher in the regional science fair from West Potomac High School.


“There was some confusion about how the judging was actually carried out because it did not take place in a public area. “The presentation mattered a lot in this year’s science fair,” said Taylor. Also, “teamwork was important because one person couldn’t do it all so we had to practice to get the presentation right in the short time period given for the video,” he added.


Although there were unusual limitations for the contestants this year, it meant presentation skills were an important part of the judging. “Very challenging research-based experiments were difficult to explain in the short timeframe given,” said Clautice. “We did as well as we could, but it just wasn’t enough time to include everything so we had to cut a lot out.”


Several Groups from West Po finished with honors at this year’s FCPS Regional Science Fair. 


3rd Place Awards:


  • The Effect of Wind Turbine Blade Surface Area on Voltage and Current Output:  Owen Barr, Mike Oelschlager
  • The Effect of Different Dispersants on the Concentration of Oil in Water: Reilly Clautice, Jake Cooper, Jack Taylor
  • The Effect of Different Plants on the Amount of CO2 in the Air: Ethan Brodie, Aaron Kopp, Michael Weinraub.

Honorable Mentions:

The Effect of Varying pH Levels on the Denaturation Rate of Protein: Sophia Cicero, Macy Lindblom, Renee Temple; Bloom’n Algae: The effect of nutrient-rich pollutants on algae growth: Nicole Jones; Using calorimetry to measure the energy output of household waste: Sam Bachmore, Carter Hamilton, Sam Watterson; The Effect of External Airbags on Car Crash Force: Adam Bao, Evan Bednarek, Robert Lamb; The Effect of Liquid Solutions on Air Pressure: Ethan Hanson, Chris Hewitt, Wes Hutcherson.