Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Science Fair that Wouldn't End

Oh, science fair. How I love to loathe thee. I'm only two science projects into my parenting career and I would just as soon be done with them entirely. Which is unfortunate because I love science. In fact, I was really looking forward to helping Logan come up with a fun and interesting project this year. We brainstormed for a few days and decided that it sounded cool to grow bacteria in Petri dishes. We designed an experiment to answer the question of which anti-bacterial cleaner worked best. Logan excitedly collected samples and swabbed them on his Petri dishes, then cleaned those sampled areas with two different cleaners and sampled them again. A few days of growing, some observations, and we'd be done! Or so we thought.

What should've been short, simple, and easy quickly morphed into involved, complicated, and drawn out. Our first hiccup was when we read the rules and regulations and learned that all bacteria had to be grown in a lab. Seriously? I scrambled for a bit before remembering that we have a BYU biology professor in our ward. I asked if we could use his lab and he agreed, so I took Logan's dishes with me to work one day and put them in a very legit biology lab to fester and grow into nasty little bacteria cultures.

I had intended to come back after the weekend to check on them, but Dr./Brother Erickson said that would be too long. Instead, he would meet us back there the next day to check on them. I felt terrible because the next day was a Saturday and I didn't want him to have to come in on his day off. But he was super nice and didn't scold me for my poor planning.

Saturday afternoon, Logan and I met Brother Erickson to observe his bacteria. All we really needed was to count colonies and take some pictures, but just when I was ready to toss the dishes and call it a day, Brother Erickson, in his quiet, non-assuming way, asked, "Wouldn't you like to look at it under the microscope?" Then he helped Logan to extract some bacteria with a pipette, put it on a slide, stain it, and look at it under a microscope. I had all sorts of flashbacks to high school biology and was totally geeking out. (Although I did get a little worried when we had some odd bacteria that Brother Erickson had never seen. What are we growing in our house?!)

That was the fun part. Now that he had results, all Logan had left to do was fill out his project folder and put together his poster. And after two weekends of grounding and hair pulling, he finally got it done. All moms of science fair age children united that week in mutual loathing for science fair projects. I was so relieved the day he took his project to school and hoped I wouldn't hear the words "science fair" in our home for another year.

But then.... he won! Logan was selected to move on to the district level. He was super excited, so I was excited for him, but the district competition involved a long evening and-- get this-- redoing his presentation board. Yeah, the school had ordered the wrong size tri-fold boards and so the kids that moved on were given a new board to recreate their project on. Are you kidding me? Round 2 of late night science fair-ing ensued.

Logan dressed up for the district competition and man, he looked sharped. I wish I could get him to wear a tie to church! He brought a book to help pass the hours while waiting for his project to be judged. I had a conflict that night so Jeff took the other kids to the award ceremony at the end of the night. You can only imagine my shock and defeat when Logan came home with an award-- and another advancement.

Round 3 was a regional science fair at BYU. By this point I was cursing myself for having followed the rules so closely. If we had just grown the bacteria at home, Logan would have been disqualified from ever progressing beyond the school level. But Logan was all smiles and excitement. More busywork came with this level-- abstracts, registrations, etc.-- and an entire school day on campus. The judging took place in the same building and rooms that I was drilled in during scholarship interviews 15 years ago. I still get anxiety walking into that place. I worried it would be a long day for him, but he loved it. I hoped and prayed that this would be the end, but of course, we got notified that afternoon that he had won something and we needed to come to the award ceremony later that week. He ended up winning third place in his category, which came with a trophy and $20! He was stoked and finally, FINALLY, we were done. And good thing, too, because the next round would have required a trip to D.C.!

I am so glad it's all over. Next year we will try to create a more mediocre project and be done back in January. But Logan-- I know you're reading this-- congrats, buddy. I'm proud of you for sticking with it and seeing it through. Well done, kiddo!