Inspiring Young Engineers: District 7 Staff Serve as Science Fair Judges
Serving as a judge is an opportunity for the engineers of today to encourage the engineers of tomorrow.
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For those of us still trying to figure out how to program the clock on our microwaves, walking through the 60th Annual Los Angeles County Science and Engineering Fair, held April 14 though 16 at the Pasadena Convention Center, is a humbling experience. The room is filled with tri-fold displays presenting sophisticated research performed by kids –- people who can’t even drive yet.
Twenty-one District 7 employees volunteered to encourage these budding scientists and engineers by serving as judges for the event, which is the longest-running regional science fair in the Western United States. About 1,100 students in Los Angeles County middle and high schools participated in the fair, which featured projects in 38 categories ranging from astrophysics to zoology. The top winners will go on to compete at the California State Science Fair.
District 7’s team of volunteers included Ada Osoy, Varoozh Torossian, Bashar Nasser, Carlos Villalobos, Dana Hendrix, Dapo Majekodunmi, Gary Kevorkian, John Vassiliades, John Lee, Jorge Fuentes, Liz Suh, Mohamed Ghannoum, Mohammad Nosrati, Reza Jahromi, Sam Alameddine, Sutida Bergquist, Tirsit Kebede, Jerry Wahal, Joseph Kibe, Natalie Hill and Carlos Montez.
The Caltrans judges attended an instructional workshop on judging, reviewed project abstracts online, and evaluated projects on site during the event. Judges then interviewed students whose projects were identified as top contenders before selecting winners. Projects were judged on creativity, scientific thought, thoroughness, skill and clarity.
“Looking at the smiling faces of these students and realizing that they will be tomorrow’s pioneers and leaders is an awesome experience that you cherish for life,” said Project Manager John Vassiliades, who has served as a judge for six years and leads the effort to recruit other Caltrans volunteers from the ranks of District 7’s engineers.
Vassiliades is also the director of the Los Angeles Section of Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG), which presented awards to the top male and female engineering students at the Awards Ceremony.
Asha Banks, a student at St. Timothy School in Los Angeles, received the Marilyn Jorgenson Reece Award and $1,000 for her project, “Which Building Design Will Best Withstand an Earthquake?” There was a tie for the James E. Roberts Award, with two students receiving $500 each. George Khabbaz, a student at St. Gregory Nazianzen School in Los Angeles, was honored for his project, “Which Building Structure is Most Earthquake Resistant?” and Nicholas Lamborn, a student at John Marshal Fundamental High School in Pasadena, was recognized for his project, “Which Bridge Design is the Strongest?” Twenty finalists received a $25 Target Gift Card.
To encourage engineers to participate as judges, Caltrans matches engineers’ mentoring time up to 40 hours each calendar year.
“The Science Fair is an opportunity for us to highlight the importance of our engineering profession to society and our commitment to always serve the public well,” said Vassiliades. “We take great pride in our work, and the Science Fair allows us to inspire the next generation of engineers.”