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Provincial science fair focuses on expert input

This weekend is the fourth year for the Manitoba Schools Science Symposium at the University of Manitoba, after 39 years at the University of Winnipeg.

"We're trying to put the focus on feedback to students," said Alastair Komus, a former provincial science-fair participant who's the facilities co-ordinator this year.

Students have left the fair in previous years "not necessarily knowing what they can do next year to improve," said Komus.

Students will set up in the Investors Group Athletic Centre Friday morning, then spend the day attending workshops with U of M scientists. This year, there'll be more time for students to discuss their projects with each other, and with former science-fair winners who've come back to mentor.

Komus said 425 students individually or in teams have registered to enter 328 projects this year. "That's up about 15 from last year and the most we've had since 2010," he said. "The peak was about 500 (projects), 10 years ago."

Projects from older kids have remained steady, while numbers are starting to rebound in grades 4 to 8, he said.

About 55 per cent of the young scientists are girls, again the norm in recent years.

Judging takes place Saturday, and public viewing runs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday during awards presentations.

The science-fair debate for years has been over the level of parental input into projects and the gap between students whose project is just another part of their school year and those who spend months in labs being mentored by scientists, doctors and professional researchers.

"Some have been mentored, and some have been done in someone's basement," Komus said.

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There is no "...provincial science fair..." in the Canada-Wide Science Fair organisation. However, the MSS does encompass the region delineated by the City of Winnipeg and this seems to be enough reason for the organisers to deem it a 'Manitoba' event.

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