Collaboration and creativity offer local students Virtual District Science Day



While Ohio schools, classrooms, and programs have been closed and canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many students lost the opportunity to share and compete in the things they love and enjoy doing. Sports and outdoor activities certainly come to mind, but equally as important are the arts and sciences.

The Western Reserve District 5 Science Day (WRSD) is one of the 16 District Science Fairs held in Ohio each spring under the Ohio Academy of Science. Students in grades 5-12 prepared projects ranging Biochemistry to Environmental Engineering to Robotics and Intelligent Machines, just to name a few. The WRSD program has been sponsored, organized and administered by members of College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering at , including interim dean Dr. Ali Dhinojwala, for 22 years. This year's event was scheduled to be held on March 21st at The University of Akron and was canceled—but only in person.

With hard work, collaboration, and creativity from numerous institutions and volunteers, the WRSD was held virtually, allowing students to still share their research and projects with judges to have a chance to qualify for the State Science Day.

Offering the District Science Fairs virtually was no easy task, but everyone involved was committed to the students and their research and saw the importance and benefit of the fairs—all in the name of science!

“None of this would have been possible without the complete ‘buy-in’ and support from each of our District Science Day partners, especially The University of Akron and the Western Reserve District 5 leadership. Thank you Laurel Lohrey for sweating all of the details and for sharing best practices across the state of Ohio,” said Michael Woytek, Chief Executive Officer at The Ohio Academy of Science.

The Virtual WRSD had 191 students registered (individual and team members), 7 teams with 16 members, and over 90 volunteer judges participate. At the completion of judging, 142 projects / 144 students were awarded with a “superior” ranking which qualified them for the State Science Day. Even though it looked different this year, the experience was still positive and impacting for students, parents, teachers, mentors and volunteers.


“The projects I had the privilege to evaluate were outstanding in every way. These students are our future and they will be leaders in the field of science. Truly an outstanding experience. I actually enjoyed the online experience and I don’t believe it hindered the judging process as much as I believed it might. Thanks for all you’ve done to make this a positive experience for all involved.” Dr. Gregory Yorgey

“This is my first year as an Assistant Professor at Kent State and I have enjoyed my time in Ohio so far. I have always wanted to judge science fairs as a graduate student and as a postdoc, but never quite got the right opportunity. I used to participate in science fairs as a kid and it were those encouraging and helpful comments from judges and mentors all these years that led me to pursue science as a career. I believe that a student's interest in science must be cultivated from a very young age by encouraging them to ask questions and test their hypotheses by performing basic experiments. Judging innovative projects at the local and D5 Science Day competitions was a very fulfilling experience as I got to firsthand experience the talent in NE Ohio. I observed that students are very comfortable performing fairly complex experiments that we could only dream about growing up in India. With the current global problems such as COVID-19 and climate change, more and more students should be encouraged to pursue STEM subjects. Finally, I would like to thank the teachers and parents for supporting and guiding the students and the organizers for providing a platform for the students.” Dr. Arkaprabha Konar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Kent State University


“Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to judge our science fair projects. After working so hard all year, it means a lot that people actually get to see them and appreciate the effort that went into them despite everything going on in the world right now. Thank you for making the science fair a possibility this year when we were all fearing our research had been for nothing. It means so much to all of the students, teachers, and project mentors.”

“Thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedules in order to look at all of our projects. It meant a lot to me and I'm sure that it means a lot to all of the students who participated in the District 5 Science Day. Despite the hardships of coronavirus, we were able to overcome it to still put on the event, and that's something to be very proud of. Thank you for being our judges, stay safe!”

“Thank you judges for the scores and for the feedback this has been an amazing journey for me and I'm so happy this could still go on. I know everyone has been working so hard and long to judge and get everything set. I honestly appreciate all of the work that was put into this! Thank you again!”

“Thank you, judges, for inspiring future scientists like myself to make differences in our fields and continuing our research. It is gratifying to see all of our hard work pay off and I would like to thank you for taking the time to honestly and effectively communicate your constructive thoughts!”

“Thank you all so much for volunteering to judge the science fair. Without you, we could not have had a second chance to do this event. I've always loved sharing my scientific thinking with others. I was sad to see that the in-person science day was canceled, but ecstatic to hear we would have a virtual one. It was no less special and couldn't have happened without support!”

The University of Akron would like to thank everyone involved in making the Virtual District Science Day a huge success despite these trying circumstances, and we wish the best of luck to all of our students at the State Science Day competition!

Click here to learn more about WRSD and view this year’s award winners and state qualifiers.

The Ohio Academy of Science was founded in 1891 to promote science and science education in Ohio. The Academy conducts numerous pre-college student-programs to encourage STEM education and to provide a venue where student-scientists can interact with other students and scientists from across Ohio. In addition, OAS hosts an Annual Meeting and publishes a scientific journal The Ohio Journal of Science that focuses on the science being done in Ohio, as well as the science that is directly impacting Ohio.