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updated: 4/28/2014 3:56 PM

Suburban students ready for state science expo

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Middle school and high school science students from the suburbs are expected to converge for the annual Illinois Junior Academy of Science state exposition May 2-3 at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

The expo will be held at the NIU Convocation Center, 1525 W Lincoln Hwy. It is expected to draw more than 1,400 seventh through 12th graders who will exhibit their research and designs. Students will compete for scholarships, best in category awards and special awards worth more than $15,000.

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"Most of the students participating in the fair will be from the northern and suburban (Chicago) area," said Pati Sievert, NIU STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) outreach director. "Suburban schools have a very high participation rate."

Only the top students selected at regional expositions advance to the state exposition.

Students can compete by giving an oral presentation of their investigation or with a project display. Investigations range from consumer and behavioral science to engineering, biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, astronomy and astrophysics.

More than 1,000 student project exhibits will be open for public viewing from noon to 3 p.m. May 3. The exhibits will be judged earlier that morning.

"It's a huge realm of projects," Sievert said. "The range of sophistication is amazing. Some of these students are doing work that is original and progressive in (pushing) engineering boundaries."

It's the first year NIU is hosting the event. Historically, the expo has been held at the University of Illinois. Next year, it will be held at Southern Illinois University.

The expo gives NIU officials an opportunity to entice students into possibly pursuing an engineering program at the university, Sievert said.

Admission to the expo is free.

The Illinois Junior Academy of Science sponsors an essay and artistic design competition as part of the expo. This year's theme is "It's an Ice Day for Science" in honor of 2014 banquet speaker Ross Powell, a renowned geologist, NIU professor and co-chief scientist of the Antarctic Geological Drilling program.

"The skills and abilities that students learn while conducting authentic research investigations are lifelong 21st century skills that will serve them well in college, their future careers, and as they become our global leaders," IJAS President Judy Scheppler said in a news release.

The IJAS research competitions are aligned with Common Core state standards for science and technology.

For more information about IJAS, email quella@imsa.edu.

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