Some of Iowa’s future scientists, doctors and astronauts are in Ames today and tomorrow, competing in the annual Science and Technology Fair of Iowa. Andrea Spencer, the event’s director, says it’s drawing wonderfully creative and bright youngsters in grades six through 12 from around 70 Iowa school districts.

There are nearly 550 students who will be exhibiting more than 420 projects. Spencer says there are incredible projects in this year’s contest that clearly involved many months of careful research and preparation. She says the students are gunning for a total of $80,000 in prizes and scholarships.

The 250 or so volunteer judges will be talking with the kids over the two days, in addition to people in science and technology career fields. Spencer says, "Hopefully, through talking with the students, the students really get more interested in science and their research that they’re doing and want to continue on." The subjects of their projects are as widely varied as the kids — from research on diabetes to diaper absorbency and from wind turbines to greenhouse gases.

"Energy and transportation projects, there is a lot of interest there this year," Spencer says. "We also have a lot in the biochemistry and microbiology area and this year we’ve seen an increase in the medical and health sciences." Whatever’s popular in the public eye, she says, is where many kids focus their research.

The public can see the projects at Iowa State University’s Hilton Coliseum and the Scheman Building until 5 P.M. today and tomorrow (Saturday) from 9:30 AM to 3 P.M. The fair’s grand awards ceremony will be presented at 5 P.M. on Saturday.

The fair will send winners to three bigger competitions: the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Reno, Nevada; the National FFA Agriscience Fair in Indianapolis, and the International Sustainable World Project Olympiad in Houston.