Former St. Leo students return to judge science projects
Nick Fedorchuk and Ben Jacoby returned to St. Leo School earlier this month to judge student science projects at this year’s science fair. Now both 25, Fedorchuk and Jacoby were third-graders when St. Leo had its first science fair. They say coming back to St. Leo was an opportunity for them to help get current students excited about science. “The science fair was a big influence on me,” said Fedorchuk, a graduate geology student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “And I think it’s just a great experience for getting students interested in science.” Interim Principal Helena DiBiasie, who has been teaching science at St. Leo for 20 years, described having two of her former students come back to judge science projects as very rewarding. Jacoby, who earned a degree in biomedical engineering, has been a St. Leo science fair judge for the past three or four years. Fedorchuk joined him this year. Both understand the value of doing science projects at an early age. “It’s a way to be creative and inquisitive for people that don’t necessarily have artistic talent,” said Jacoby, a computer programmer for eLink Design in Lexington. “I always enjoyed the creative process behind finding” an answer to a question. “It’s just fun to explore the world around you,” added Fedorchuk. “…To know that it’s constantly changing too.” In addition to choosing topics of interest to investigate, students presented their science projects and findings to judges who are professionals in a variety of scientific fields. Volunteer judges, employed by Fouser Environmental Services in Versailles, Lexmark, Alltech, IBM and other science-related companies, gave St. Leo students feedback and asked them questions that were pertinent to topics they explored in their science projects. It’s an opportunity many of them would not get – even in high school, DiBiasie said. “It’s more than just science,” she explained. “It really teaches the kids how to approach problems scientifically … It’s about looking at a problem, looking at potential solutions. “How can I test what that best solution might be? And that can be applied to a variety of subject areas – not just science.” In recent years, St. Leo’s older students have been especially interested in exploring questions about human behavior. “It shows an interest, it shows a desire to figure things out,” said Dr. Michael DiBiasie, a psychologist and judge at this year’s St. Leo science fair. “For me,” he continued, “that’s a creative mind. And if they’re showing that at this age than hopefully … they’re not just going to take an assumption. They’re going to challenge it. And I think that’s important. I think we learn from that.” Students in grades four through eight were required to do individual projects for the St. Leo science fair. And younger students learn about the scientific method while contributing to class projects – beginning in kindergarten. “It’s a good experience,” said Fedorchuk, while taking a break from his judging duties. “The (scientific) process stays the same … So if you learn it now, I think you have a foundation for any science classes you take later on.” He said St. Leo’s annual science fair underscores the value of science to students – whether or not they ever pursue a career in science.