Sarina Fereydooni competes in California Science Center competition

Sarina Fereydooni at the last in-person California Science Center competition. Her project on opioid prescriptions was digital this year. Photo courtesy of Sarina Fereydooni

By Emily Garcia

The California Science Center hosted its annual California Science & Engineering Fair virtually this year. There were 812 participants from 339 schools presenting 722 projects in competition. The competition was open for grades 6-12. Although the event was virtual, it was still as neatly organized and scheduled as it has been in years past. Contestants had to submit their projects a day before the competition. 

The students who qualify to compete at the state level are able to compete with a project that they feel most interested in, as long as it relates to science.

Junior Sarina Fereydooni competed with a project researching opioids. She is the captain of the Science Fair team at GHC.

“I competed with a science fair project titled ‘Factors of Opioid Prescriptions.’ Declared as a nationwide public health emergency, the frequency of opioid misuse has increasingly become a concern. Therefore, the factors that could make certain providers more prone to having a higher number of opioid prescriptions is of utmost importance. As a result, I decided to use the combination of computer and behavioral science to analyze whether factors such as political affiliation, speciality and gender play a factor in providers’ high number of opioid prescriptions,” Fereydooni said. 

Fereydooni is interested in multi-disciplinary research in the field of human rights, so this science fair project was a way for her to combine behavioral science, computer science and medicine.

“Prior to the actual day of the California State Science Fair, we had to format all our findings into long documents and an abstract. Once we submitted everything, on the day of the science fair we had multiple interviews. Since it was virtual, we were tasked with signing into a call at a certain time. For the interviews, the judges would ask us questions regarding our projects, our findings, our conclusions etc.,” Fereydooni said. 

There were highs and lows to the competition, especially when having to take safety precautions. It certainly wasn’t the same as last year, but passionate participants like Fereydooni made the most out of their experience. 

“The highs of the competitions were the ability to network with various judges from different fields and backgrounds of science. I personally love science fair because I’m able to interact with different people to gain feedback and opinions from or just to simply discuss the implications of the project. A low of the competition was the fact that it was hosted virtually. Normally, in an in person competition, we would be able to walk around and talk to other attendees about their projects from different categories of science. Unfortunately, that was not an option this year,” Fereydooni said. 

In a traditional setting, students are able to wander around browsing each other’s projects, though that was not an option this year as the competition was virtual. However, competitors were still able to meet with experts in the science field.

“What I liked about this competition was that we were able to talk to a lot more judges from different fields and experiences of science than we previously were able to. In years past, inviting a judge meant that they had to put their job on hold for a day in order to make it to the competition. In that case, many judges were unable to attend. However, the flexibility that a virtual environment provides allowed for many other astounding judges to attend,” Fereydooni said.

As captain of the Science Fair team, Fereydooni’s responsibilities include leading team meetings and creating relevant content to teach students. She also oversees the development of team members’ science fair projects. Fereydooni is excited to compete next year as well.