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Announcements Kevin Jarrett April 01, 2024

Jakub Hel, a senior at Hoover High School, presents at CARSEF.

On March 2, 2024, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Center for Community Outreach Development (CORD) orchestrated the 20th Annual Central Alabama Regional Science and Engineering Fair (CARSEF) at the UAB Campus Recreation Center, drawing a record-breaking 513 participants.

The event brought together students from 56 schools across 14 counties in central Alabama, underscoring the fair's reputation as the largest regional science and engineering fair in the state.

Notably, this year's fair marked a substantial 78 percent increase year-over-year in participation from rural Alabama counties. According to Kevin Jarrett, program manager for CORD, “This surge in engagement reflects CARSEF's commitment to expanding its reach and creating opportunities for students across diverse geographical areas. This was accomplished by UAB-CORD providing year-round in-class teacher and student training on research, poster creation, and interview practice.”

The diverse array of projects showcased at CARSEF spanned various scientific disciplines, as 65 judges from UAB—representing over 20 departments—contributed their expertise to the rigorous evaluation process. UAB undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members enriched the fair's atmosphere, providing mentorship and encouraging exploration.

"For the past three years, I have had the privilege of serving as a judge for CARSEF. Through this role, I have been able to see excellent, well-developed, and thorough projects completed by middle schoolers and high schoolers,” said Anushka Patel, a UAB neuroscience major. “The highlight of the experience is getting to interact with the students themselves as they showcase their dedication and diligence in their presentations. Their passion for STEM is what brings me back year after year to serve as a CARSEF judge!"

CARSEF's commitment to nurturing scientific curiosity extends across grade levels, featuring both a middle school fair (Junior Division) for grades 6-8 and a high school fair (Senior Division) for grades 9-12. Within these divisions, students compete in specific categories such as biology, chemistry, engineering, medicine and health, and more.

These divisions offer a platform for participants to specialize and excel in their respective fields, says Jarrett.

As part of the 20th-anniversary celebration, CARSEF presented 120 awards to outstanding projects, recognizing the innovative spirit and hard work of participating students. In addition, the fair identified 54 exceptional projects to advance to the Alabama Regional Science and Engineering Fair in Auburn, Alabama, scheduled for April 13.

Four projects were honored with a prestigious “Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair Nomination.” The exceptional students who worked on these projects will compete on a global stage at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles, California, from May 11-17. This event draws more than 1,500 competitors from 64 countries.

 The recipients of the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair Nomination.

Jarrett attributes the continued success of the program to long-standing partnerships between CORD and area teachers and students. Through building and maintaining these strong relationships, CORD is able to work with and host a truly diverse group of students. In addition to the program providing a great opportunity for students to share their interest in science, it also creates a chance for students—and their families—to gain exposure to UAB and its renowned STEM degree programs.

"I will be starting in the UAB neuroscience and the Science and Technology Honors Program in the Fall of 2024. My participation and positive experiences in CARSEF at UAB, ASEF, and 2022 ISEF have been part of my college decision,” said Jakub Hel a senior at Hoover High School.

Visit the CORD website to learn more about CARSEF and the many other science-focused programs it hosts.

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