TAMU-CC Hosts Coastal Bend Regional Science Fair for Grades 6-12

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi welcomed nearly 200 sixth to 12th grade students to campus for the Junior-Senior Division of the 2023 Coastal Bend Regional Science Fair, held Feb. 11 in the University Center.

This year was the first in-person fair since 2020 after being held virtually in 2021 and 2022 due to COVID-19. During the height of the pandemic, 6-12th grade students competed in February and the K-5 competition was held in April. This year’s fair continued that trend of splitting the contests into two separate dates.

Baker Middle School student Elijah Vargas, the Junior Division first-place winner in the Physics and Astronomy category, received special recognition for his project “Spin Effect.”

As a 12-year-old baseball pitcher, Vargas tested his hypothesis that a baseball thrown with a top spin would sink more than a ball thrown with a back spin, using The Magnus Effect as the basis for his theory. As a top winner, Vargas is eligible to enter his project into TxSEF, the Texas Science and Engineering Fair in College Station, as well as the Thermo-Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge, the national level fair for 6-8th graders.

“I put in a lot of hard work,” Vargas said. “My project made it all the way here, which I’m really happy about, and now it’s getting an award and I’m really happy.”

Dr. Debra Plowman, TAMU-CC Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Learning Sciences and Science Fair Director, said the Coastal Bend Regional Science Fair was one of the few science fairs to hold both elementary and secondary level fairs using virtual methods during the pandemic and freeze in 2021.

“During the 2022 fair, we had several finalists at state and one eighth grader achieved the top award in the state for the Life Science division,” Plowman said. “I also think it is pretty special that we have one student, who is a senior this year, who has participated on the Coastal Bend Fair 13 years in a row, from kindergarten to 12th grade!”

Islander students, faculty, and staff and STEM professionals from the community were also on hand to help with project judging as well as logistics.

“Our university encourages volunteerism to get connected to the community,” Plowman said. “Islander volunteers are a big part of the science fair’s success.”

One such Islander volunteer judge was Ulsia Urrea Marino ’24, a Coastal and Marine Systems Science doctoral student who earned a bachelor’s degree in the Sustainable Management of Coastal Zones in 2012 and a master’s degree in Urban Studies three years later in Mexico.

“I was super focused, and I learned so much from the students,” Marino said. “They really make you think deeply. It was amazing seeing these brilliant minds gathering and talking passionately about their work.”

Carissa Pinon ’18, ’23, who is working on a Master of Science in Biology, said she has fond memories of competing in the fair when she was an elementary school student.

“I got to judge the plant group, and so I'm really excited to see that many people wanting to do work with plants,” Pinon said.

The fair has been sponsored by H-E-B for the past two years, which has allowed the purchase of T-shirts for each science fair participant.

“These T-shirts are specially designed to elevate science and to thank the volunteers and students for all their hard work. This year the T-shirt them was: ‘I am the solution, it’s me: Science for a better future,’” Plowman said. “We are looking forward to partnering with more sponsors so we can support more student participation in our local regional fair, the state fair, and the international fair.”

Visit sciencefair.tamucc.edu to learn more about the upcoming K-5 science fair competition or to see if you qualify as a science fair judge.