IAP’19 Alvin Zhu ’21 MSEF

I was excited to jump back into my work as a Research Intern for the Massachusetts Science & Engineering Fair (MSEF) again. After taking a break during the Fall 2018 semester, I was itching to do something productive (and to earn money while doing it) during IAP. After spending almost my entire previous experience with the then Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair on four huge databases relating the towns/cities of Massachusetts with state legislators, I knew I could do it better. Thus, Pat, my awesome supervisor, set me up to the task of updating and further optimizing the four databases (a new year meant new senators and legislators in the government). With my prior experience and a few new tricks up my sleeve, I was able to completely and accurately renew the data in record time! Rather than spending over 80 hours on the project, I now did it in under 35. As this project will ultimately be used to contact the legislators of the winning student scientists’ in the science fair to congratulate the students (and encourage legislators to put more funding into STEM education for all), I was touched by the meaning behind this task and thus took it upon myself to do a good job. In fact, last spring, I used these databases to contact the legislators themselves, who in turn went on to actually mail congratulatory letters to their student scientists! Such dedication of MSEF to furthering STEM education in youths is echoed in my second project: managing a list of editors for over 100 newspapers throughout Massachusetts. Similarly, to the legislator project, MSEF will use my work to contact the newspapers covering the winning students’ locations to spread word of their hard work! After that rather arduous but very necessary task, I was given something a lot more interesting: data visualization! MSEF runs an after-school Science Club and after collecting data from over 80 students, I had the opportunity to make high impact graphs of the perceptions of the students towards STEM and analyze them. Better yet, I had the opportunity to further my skills in Tableau to fulfill this task! All in all, I am very happy working with MSEF and Pat on a cause I feel strongly for. As a student in a very STEM heavy school, I believe that every child should have access to high quality education in both STEM and the humanities.

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