Nearly 1,500 students from 17 middle schools and 13 high descended on Easton Area High School Saturday to participate in the 77th Annual Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science Region 3 meet.
Drawing from schools in Schuylkill, Berks, Lehigh, Carbon and Northampton counties, the regional science competition has no less than 12 science categories for students to enter, ranging from behavioral science to biology to mathematics and computer science. Those receiving first place awards have the opportunity to go on to the state meet at Penn State University to be held May 15 to 17.
Theresa Sagazio-Wolf, an Easton Area High School science teacher, has hosted the science meet for about 20 years, joined by her husband, Jacob Wolf, also a science teacher at EAHS for the last 13 years. About 300 Easton students, ranging from 7th to 12th grade are participated Saturday, she said.
Sagazio-Wolf said the number of students participating from Easton has remained consistent, and about 90 Easton students received first place awards last year and were eligible to compete at the state meet. But funding cuts meant that only about half of the eligible students actually did so last year, as opposed to prior years, when the trip was funded by the district, she said.
“I try to be optimistic funding will increase in the future,” Sagazio-Wolf said of the situation, noting that other student opportunities are lost for those that don't have the chance to go to the state meet, such as scholarships and cash awards that often come with first place state awards.
While the number of students locally has remained consistent, overall, the meet has grown, said Edith Mauthe, the five-county regional director for PJAS. Up from 1260 in 2010, this year's meet attracted 1475 students.
Of these, 800 were middle school students, with the remainder being high school students. More middle-school students than high school students usually attend, she said.
“Some schools require the projects,” Mauthe said. “Other students just have a passion for science and compete year after year.”
More students have participated multiple times in recent years, she said, with some competing all five years they are eligible.
“This was an exceptional year for the number of students that registered,” Mauthe said.
Schools will be notified of their students' results on Monday, meet officials said, and the schools individually decide how and when to release the results.
The judging staff is made up of local science teachers, college professors and professionals, who each judge presentations within their field of expertise on a strict point scale to keep the judging consistent. The students make their individual presentations in assigned classrooms, in groups of about ten similar projects by students of the same grade level, and no one is allowed to leave the classroom until all the presentations are made and the judging sheets are submitted for calculation.
Participating PJAS Region 3 Schools
Broughal Middle School
Eyer Middle School
Jim Thorpe Area School District
Lower Macungie Middle School
Northeast Middle School
Orefield Middle School
Our Lady of Hungary Regional School
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Home School
Sacred Heart of Jesus School, Bath
St. Ann's School, Emmaus
St. Elizabeth regional School
St. Francis of Assisi
St. John Neumann Regional School
St. Joseph the Worker School
St. Michael the Archangel SChool
St. Thomas More School
Salisbury Middle School
Shawnee Intermediate School
Springhouse Middle School
The Swain School
Allentown Central Catholic High School
Bethlehem Catholic High School
Easton Area High School
Emmaus High School
Freedom High School
Liberty High School
Marian Catholic High School
Parkland High School
Salisbury High School
Weatherly Area High School