Budding scientists compete in junior European symposium

Sheri Byrd, Story and photos
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***“It’s great to be surrounded by other kids who love
science, where it’s not
weird to be intellectual.”
– Zachary Byrd,
Ramstein American Middle School

When top scientific universities search for top high school students to recruit, one of the first places they look is to winners in the Army, Navy and Air Force sponsored Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, said Ken DaVault.

Mr. DaVault, Ramstein American Middle School seventh-grade school science teacher, directed the European JSHS for the third year in a row. This year’s EJSHS, held March 1 to 4 in Frankfurt, included oral presentations, poster sessions, a brainstorming session for this and future events, and field trips to Frankfurt museums.

Department of Defense Dependent Schools high school and middle school students from London to Turkey came to present their original research, as well as hear presentations by contributing universities, research and development laboratories, and exchange ideas with teachers and fellow students.

***image2***“We had the largest participation ever, with 136 students from 20 (DODDS) high schools and six middle schools,” said Mr. DaVault. “This is an unparalleled opportunity for kids with an interest in science. The research and presenting skills they learn here are exactly what they will need in college and beyond. From educational standpoint it crosses several topics, from science to math to language arts to graphic art.”

Janet Priddy, RAMS gifted education teacher, accompanied six seventh-grade students from her school: Brian Altenbernd, Collin Barclay, Zachary Byrd, Christian Sanders, Jeremy Weber and Patsy Young.

Daniel Langholz, Landstuhl Elementary and Middle School seventh-grader, competed with his project concerning plant growth in zero-gravity, taking first place in the middle school oral presentations division.

“I was nervous to speak in front of so many people,” Daniel said, “but it felt really good when I could answer all of their questions.”

***image3***The event is as important to the students socially as it is academically, said Mr. DaVault. “The older students really take the younger ones under their wing. We are here as teachers and chaperones, but we have very little chaperoning to do. When students are in this professional situation, dressing and expected to act as adults, they do.”

“It’s great to be surrounded by other kids who love science,” said Zachary, “where it’s not weird to be intellectual.”
“I’ve loved being in the competition,” said Jeremy, “but I haven’t gotten any sleep.”

The symposium awards $4,000 in scholarships, between the top four high school oral presenters and the top high school poster presenter. Middle school students compete in their own division, and learn proper research and presenting techniques from the older students, said Mr. DaVault, hopefully to compete as future presenters.

The top four oral presenters and the winning poster presenter, with Mr. DaVault, will be flown to San Diego, at the end of April for the national JSHS.

Leading scientific universities are drawn to the dedication often present in DODDS students, Mr. DaVault said. “JSHS winners are one of the main places they look. The students are treated like royalty at the nationals. The recruiters are all over them.”