Oklahoma State University
The National American Indian Science and Engineering Fair is getting a physical location at Oklahoma State University in April.
The fair will be April 6 at the Wes Watkins Center in Stillwater. The onsite fair will add to the participating students’ experience while still offering virtual participation for students in remote locations. The OSU location will also offer space for students to engage with American Indian culture, interact with STEM professionals, mentors and peers, and tour STEM facilities on campus.
The onsite fair at Oklahoma State University is limited to only 200 participants. The deadline to register is February 23, with a deadline for abstract submissions on March 1. Learn more and register at fairs.aises.org/naivsef.
The event is a pre-college program of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, where American Indian students in fifth through 12th grades present science and engineering research. Senior division participants — ninth through 12th grades — could win free trips to the International Science and Engineering Fair in May in Phoenix, with travel and registration paid by the society. The fair supports American Indian students in discovering, pursuing and sustaining interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The need for fairs like this one is twofold, said Cara Cowan Watts, president of the Oklahoma Professional Chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, who earned her doctorate in biosystems engineering from Oklahoma State University in 2015.
“Science fairs in general are needed to inspire our students to learn technical skills earlier,” she said. “But we need a place for science fairs in Indian country, focused on our Indian students. American Indian students still face discrimination, so they need a positive, encouraging environment that will challenge them to take on STEM careers.”
“As a higher education institution, when we look at the number of STEM graduates across the nation, we note that there is a deficiency of students of color, including American Indian students, earning STEM degrees,” said Dr. Jason Kirksey, director of Oklahoma State University’s Department of Institutional Diversity. “This science fair presents an opportunity to deepen and sustain the interests of a community of students who are underrepresented and underserved in STEM disciplines.”
In addition to expanding Oklahoma State University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, hosting the fair is an opportunity for OSU to fulfill principles of its land-grant mission, Kirksey said: “The lives of citizens in the state, the nation and the world are improved through STEM research and advancements.”
Interaction is important for sustaining interest in STEM fields, said Dr. Jovette Dew, assistant vice president for Institutional Diversity and director of Diversity Academic Support and TRIO programs.
“When I send our college students to national conferences where they see other minority students who are studying science, engineering or technology, they come back empowered to complete their studies,” she said. “I’m a firm believer in an on-campus science fair. It’s an opportunity for students to be there and talk with judges one on one.”
To support the National American Indian Science and Engineering Fair, visit osugiving.com or contact Jeromie Tucker at 405-385-0736.