John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2006 March 10 initial
 2011 Mar 6 current 
    The 2006 running of the New York City Science and Engineering Fair
was cancelled on its original date of 12 February 2006. A massive
snowstorm blew into the City during the previous afternoon and
evening, forcing the fair's space, the City College, to close. The
fair crew apparently missed getting word of this closure, showed up on
the 12th, and found nothing prepared or set up. 
    There was no crew from the College to work with the fair. The fair 
had to be scrubbed on the spot, even as some 200 parents, teachers, 
judges, students streamed into the registration room, straight from 
the raging storm outside. 
    A few days after the 12th the fair was reset for February 26th. 
This time the weather was favorable and the fair convened. 
    My account of the February cancellation is in NYSkies as 'Snow 
science today' on 2006 February 12. 
Oh, no, no, go!
    I arranged to go with science buddy Steve Kaye to escort his 
students to City College and get them set up with their exhibits. Then 
we two would muster up for the judging. We were to meet at the Kings 
Highway station on the BMT Brighton line at, gasp!, 7AM, quite at 
sunrise! We and his students would assemble near the turnstiles and 
board the next uptown train. This would bring us to City College by 
8AM for registration. 
    With the crickets chirping, or what ever makes cricket noises in 
winter, I crawled out of bed, get ready, and headed off to meet Steve. 
Altho it was in morning twilight on a Sunday, buses and trains were 
running normally. I got to a transfer station, to change to the 
Brighton train, with slack time to spare. 
    No Brighton train.
    The platform was filling up with early morning riders, all figgity 
in wait. There were no announcements or signs about any reroutes or 
delays. Time was draining steadily. It closed in on 7AM! 
    Finally, a few minutes after 7AM a train showed up. The ride was 
swift and calm. But I was late, like really late!. I figured to go to 
Kings Highway, verify that Steve went on without me, and hop the next 
train to the College. 
    The Sun was well up when the train ramped onto its berm right-of-
way, meaning it was well after 7 o'clock. I skipped down to the 
turnstiles, fully expecting to confirm that no one was there. 
    There was Steve and three of his students! What happened?! He
explained that several students were not there yet. With borrowed
cellphones from the students on hand, he was cajoling the missing kids
to, well, get their asses to the station like right now. The three
students with him had their projects wrapped and ready to go.
Load and go!
    After a few more frittered minutes, Steve and I worked up a Plan B. 
I, after a couple years with the fair, knew the procedures. Steve 
asked me to go to the fair with the three kids already present. He 
alone will take care of the latecomers. We saddled up the kids, 
hustled them to the platform, got the next uptown train. With a change 
at Atlantic & Pacific, we were on the way to City College. For these 
three, it was their first visit at the College. 
    One kid had a project about 'modulated intelligence', which I 
found intriguing, but a bit outside my expertise. My intelligence is 
well modulated, thank you. The other two were a team with wave-
particle interactions. They were measuring the energy of an unknown 
wave by making a 'chord' with it and a wave of known energy. 
    We chatted about, well, what high school kids chat about. They 
wanted to learn what it was like for me in high school. They heard 
fairy tales about civil unrest, the space race, Vietnam, women's 
movement, education reform (or deform), and all that. Did all this 
stuff really happen? 
    These three were recent emigrants from the ongoing mass efflux 
from Russia. These were not American-born children of the folk who 
left Russia in the last generation. 
    Among themselfs they spoke Russian yet spoke and understood 
English a lot better than a good portion of native people in the City. 
They even knew the street words for, erm, items of importance to 
    As we rumbled and roared thru Manhattan, we by sheer chance, were 
greeted by one of Steve's colleagues, an other judge! He got on right 
into the same car as us at an a transfer station!! This fellow, Mr 
Kramer, knew that Steve and flock would ride this particular route. 
Rather than going out to Brooklyn to meet us, he waited at a way 
station. As each Brighton train pulled in, he scanned thru the windows 
for us!! 
Science in the schools
    The five of us rapped away as the tunnel lights flashed by. One 
theme was the science education in high schools. Both Kramer and the 
students knew the score here. Over the last many years, school 
offerings in the sciences withered away. Labs are no longer 
provisioned, old books are not replaced, the curriculum was watered 
down, certain classes aren't offered, opportunities for advanced 
students aren't publicized. 
    In truth, the students with us, and by extrapolation likely a large 
portion of the other fair entrants, are exhibiting in spite of the 
degradation of science education in the City. One possible reason is 
that many of the science entrants came from countries where science is 
a viable option. 
    They left for political or other collateral causes. With their 
prior appreciation of science, they just went ahead with their 
projects regardless of how their school welcomed them. 
    The interest of the rank-&-file teacher is crucial here. I can see 
that a science teacher, 'taking the hint' from the school officials, 
will miss telling his students about the science fair. Maybe there is 
no fair? Oh, I heard it was cancelled this year? 
    Teachers who are also judges tend to appreciate the fair, and other 
science opportunities like the Intel Science Talent Search. (This was 
before 1998 run under Westinghouse sponsorship.) They often borrow, 
beg, kite service and equipment on their own from outside sources to 
move their students along in these contests. 
The last half-K
    From the City College station, we hoofed it the last half kilometer 
to the campus. Along the way I narrated the history of this hood, 
Hamilton Heights. I noted Shriver's Row, an elegant street of high-
class townhouses. In my school days it was part of a reeking slum 
district. I recalled how we would jog or run along this street to 
lessen chances of being set upon by the natives. 
    We stopped at Alexander Hamilton's house. Steve makes his students 
read about Hamilton prima mente to see the house Hamilton lived in 
during the Revolutionary period. (The house was some long time ago 
squared up with the present street grid.) It's open for visits by the 
National Park Service and is a stop on tours of Harlem. When I was in 
school it was dilapidated and vandalized by derelicts. 
    I pointed out Steinman Hall, the engineering hall, where most of my 
classes were. This was the scene of demonstrations during the Vietnam 
conflict. Protestors smeared paint on its walls and pelted it with 
rocks and bricks. It's a good thing it has few windows! 
    I showed them St Nicholas Terrace, the perimeter road on the crest 
of St Nicholas Park, a cliff. While at the College I was sternly 
warned to stay the hell off of that street. Hoodlums robbed students 
and tossed the victims off of the cliff. Brush and trees checked their 
fall but serious bruises and a couple broken bones were common. 
    I pointed to classroom windows in Shepard Hall facing the park. 
From there I looked over into the Valley of the Harlem during the 
1960surban riots. Fires sprouted every few blocks down there and a 
constant wail of police and fire sirens whiffed thru the trees. 
    The kids noticed that the College is on a hilltop. To reach the 
College from any direction you have to climb this hill, like the one 
we just walked up. During the civil unrests, I and classmats were 
rained on by stones thrown by rioters form the roofs. I had to hide 
behind parked cars as shields as the rocks banged them up. 
    Once on the campus, there was more peril. The campus is a linear 
one along Convent Avenue. The north half was mainly for the hard 
sciences, engineering, architecture. Students there were treated as 
puppets of the military-industrial complex to support McNamara's war 
in Vietnam. South campus, with 135th St as the green line, was the 
soft and non sciences grounds. The students there were pinkos, 
Maoists, Castroites, free-lovers (when there was still grassy field), 
hippies. There were rumbles between the two factions across the green 
The nose of good luck
    Kramer and I herded the kids into Shepard Hall, to their signup 
tables, made sure they were properly enrolled. The registration was in 
the Lincoln Hall, a long midway with side corridors, chandeliers, 
paintings of past College presidents, and some captured gargoyles. At 
one end is a head statue of Abraham Lincoln. It's tucked out of the way
against a column and can be easily overlooked.
    I paused the students at this statue and told them, and Kramer, 
that for good luck in the Fair they had to rub Lincoln's nose. This 
was a custom when I was at City for luck on exams, term reports, game 
tryouts, other competitive events. The tradition was obviously still 
in force because the nose was burnished smooth and shiny while the 
rest of the statue was weathered. Each of the three kids ritually 
rubbed the nose. 
    I wasn't sure if these new Americans took me seriously about the 
College or treated my stories as silly propaganda. What ever were 
their thoughts, we brang the kids to the exhibit floor, to their 
tables, and hurried off to the judge's reception across the street. 
Chaos manor
    It seems that the snowstorm of February 12th had a cascade or 
domino effect on the New York Academy of Sciences, the fair's sponsor. 
Paperwork from setting up the first show was lost or missing! Kramer's 
and my judge enrollment were not on the books! I showed my own 
correspondence about the fair. The receptionist booked me, and Kramer, 
but explained that she had no project assignments for us! No tickee, 
no showee. Please take breakfast and come back for the assignments. 
    We had to eat anyway -- I skipped breakfast at home! -- so this 
suggestion was really quite welcome. In the dining room we and other 
judges wolfed down a hot buffet. I overheard convos at nearby tables: 
'This fair is all loused up!'; 'I was left off of the enrollment 
books!'; 'I'm here to wait for assignments!' 
    There was a mix of low grousing to loud complaint. Perhaps some of 
these people slogged thru the snow for the first round and were pissed 
off by a second snafu? 
    While I was eating, Steve rushed in, grabbed a plate, and told me 
that his other kids finally showed up and he put them thru the 
registration. Now he learned that everything is screwed up with the 
judging. I calmed him down and we both went back for assignments. A 
laid-back gentleman at a laptop greeted us and asked for basic info. 
    This was the same items we gave at the reception table, a few 
meters away. He noted that he didn't get anything from there so he's 
starting all over from scratch. 
    I presented that I was called to judge engineering and physical 
science projects, these areas being my profession. No problem, dapper 
Dan said. He pecked at the laptop in search of qualifying projects. As 
each item came up on the screen, he wrote down and carefully 
pronounced its number. So far so good. 
    He explained that the projects are grouped on the exhibit floor by 
category. Mine were in the 'cranberry' section. The table cloths are 
colored for each category. Steve got projects for his specialty. I 
forget the color they were in. 
    I had now in hand a slate of ten projects, to be assessed in each 
of ten periods during the day. Not only was i given certain exhibits 
to visit, but also the hour to visit them at. Laptop pecker said the 
periods will be announced over the exhibit hall's PA. The roster sheet 
had spaces for alternatives, in case of no-shows. We asked about 
these. Laptop chap didn't allot any; he said we were all set to go. 
    One thing I noticed about my and Steve's assignments. There seemed 
to be no record made of which judge has which projects! Laptop man 
just copied off screen data only onto our sheets, which we had with 
us. We mused about how the link of judges and projects will be done 
when we hand in our scores. 
Orientation, Occidentation?
    Judges had to attend an orientation meeting in a nearby auditorium. 
Most of us were late due to the processing problems, but Steve and I 
caught most of the session. The entire show schedule was slipped later 
by an hour to compensate for the delay in preparing the judges. 
    I found this orientation pretty useless. Nothing was explained 
about the project features to look for or the way to apply the judging 
criteria. Most of the blah-blah was vague and loose banter about the 
importance of being a judge and helping the science education. It's a 
good thing I read the printed material from the cancelled show and 
understood the general procedures from previous fairs. 
    I heard rolling grumbling and griping. Some judges upped and left 
to start their rounds of the projects. Others sat back in obvious 
displeasure. With this over, in about a half hour, the remaining 
judges marched across the street to the exhibit floor. 
Cranberry, where art thou?
    I with other judges trooped to the exhibit hall in Shepard Hall. 
Shepard was the main structure of the core campus of City College when 
it was opened in about 1903. It actually itself resembles an immense 
cathedral with bell towers, nave, transcept, buttresses, stained glass 
windows, chandeliers. 
    It was completely renovated in early 2000s, with some punchlist 
work left to do. Now it is truly one of the most fetchingly gorgeous 
collegiate edifices I ever saw. A similar refreshing is taking place 
in the other core buildings on Convent Avenue: Baskerville, Compton, 
Geothals, Harris, Wingate. In a couple years City College's core 
campus could realisticly compete for America's most beautiful college 
    The exhibit floor is in Shepard's Great Hall. Except for the lack 
of pews and altar, it could pass as a multidenominational church. 
Today the floor was filled with lunch tables in rows and tiers. The 
students placed their exhibit displays on these tables according to a 
location assigned to them in the registration. 
    From the materials I had from the cancelled show and discussion 
with other science folk before this fair, it seems that there were 
only 700 or so entrants. This is a deep cut from the 1,000 and more in 
past years. Every one fit into Great Hall this year with no need for 
overflow rooms. 
    I struck out for the 'cranberry' cloth on the exhibit tables. I did 
see a rasberry cloth, a plum-peach one, ones for lavender, maroon, 
strawberry, watermelon, but not what I would call cranberry. I asked a 
fair staff, a floater wearing red jackets with 'Fair staff' on the 
back. He pulled out a chart, ran his finger over it, and motioned that 
I follow him. He took me to a couple rows of tables that he declared 
were cranberry. i just took his word for it. 
Good behavior, no physics
    I took a breather and sorted out my papers. The kit came with ten 
score cards, one for each project. On these I wrote the project 
number, taken directly from the assignment sheet. There was a space 
for the judge's number. There was no number from the on-the-spot 
processing of judges. I wrote in my name. 
    The card had sections for the various judging criteria, which I was 
already versed in from studying the instructions from the cancelled 
show. With all in readiness, I stepped up to the first exhibit. The 
exhibits had nice large numbers signs, making it easy to spot them 
from a distance without having to crawl the tables. 
    I designed to let the student go thru a spiel about the project. 
Then i would ask a few clarifying questions, examine the display, and 
thank him. That would, I guessed, take about twenty minutes. The rest 
of each period would be for marking the score card and a bit of rest. 
    First up was a project about high school achievement as a function 
of sibling birth order. Oh? This had nothing to do with engineering or 
    What to do? 
    I could go back to the mustering hall and complain. That would take 
at least a half hour, being that it takes a traverse of a couple 
hundred meters across the street, and then return, and for what end 
result? The assignments were scrambled already; could they be so 
neatly rectified? 
    I abandoned all hope. 
    What the hell? This was a project within the scope of a reasonable 
person to assess. I went thru my routine, greeted the student, and 
asked about her project. There are certain features of the exhibit 
that I had to check for.
    There must be no identity, like school or student name, on the 
display. Only text, pictures, and other flat material may be on the 
display, no solid models, apparatus, or demonstration is allowed, 
sample data and conclusions must be clearly shown, no medical or 
physical abuse of vertebrate animals, and so on. All of the projects I 
examined passed this preliminary process. 
    The student explained how she surveyed her classmates and their 
siblings, arranged them in order of birth within a family, and checked 
their school grades. She did find a correlation in that the earlier 
siblings tend to do better in school because their parents took more 
care with them. The later ones made do more on their own. 
    My questions related to the age spread of the siblings and the 
parental function. Some families are run by single parents, relatives, 
extended households. She answered my questions quite expertly and 
noted some factors she had too little data or time to explore 
properly. She noted that some surveys she didn't use for having 
complications, like a sibling with continual-care medical problems. 
    Her display was neatly lettered -- virtually every one now uses 
computer wordproc with no more grotesque stencil or letter tracings --
with clear graphs and text. I felt her conclusions derived from her 
input data and she did try hard to make the proper analysis. So when I 
thanked her, i had a good feeling for this project. I reflected it in 
her score card. 
Periods, shmeriods
    The barker did call out the periods to keep the judging on 
schedule. The periods were 25 minutes long, allowing sufficient time 
to visit an exhibit, mark the score card, and rest for the next 
period. This scheme, while it helped me to mind the hour, collapsed 
for the judging. 
    What quickly happened was that judges finished one visit and 
scoring, then set off for the next visit. They did not wait for the 
end of the instant period. It took me generally twenty minutes to 
judge an exhibit; then I moved on to my next one. If the next project 
was already occupied by an other judge, I came back to it later. 
    Of course, the period I listened up for was the call for lunch. I 
actually finished most of my projects before lunch and all of them by 
mid afternoon. 
    The breakdown of the period scheme allowed that some projects were 
judged more than the proper three or four times. I guess some judges 
made a cursory visit, leaving the bulk of the period free for an other 
judge to come along for a visit. Multiply this effect over the day, a 
project could plausibly be inspected for as many as, I heard, 10 or 11 
    By lunch time I discovered that the project numbers on my roster 
were not a uniform set over the whole floor! They were a sequence 
within each category!! Where I wrote '29' on my card, it really meant 
'29-cranberry'. By good fortune I did write in a brief title for each 
project as advised in the printed instructions. Many other judges 
passed up this item as being optional. I have no idea how their cards 
were matched with projects after they were handed in! 
    The students were sent into an other room for box lunches while we 
judges trooped across the street to the dining hall. Lunch was a mix 
of sandwiches and pastries, quite hearty and much needed. 
The other projects
    It turned out that I was given exhibits in 'behavioral sciences', 
with none at all for the physical science (including earth and space) 
or engineering. I will perhaps never learn if this was a cockup in the 
list given to me or color-mismatch of table cloths, or wrong 
directions from the fair agent on the floor. It didn't by now matter. 
    I list my other projects here with a brief description. I 
completely forget the actual order I visited them in; they are listed 
alphabeticly by my own brief, tho not official, title. 
    ALCOHOL & RAT BRAIN NEUROSYNTHESIS - Laboratory rats were first 
placed in a box with two toys. Then they were given food laced with 
ethanol. They were then put back in the box with only one of the toys. 
The rat looked for the missing toy because he remembered it. Memory is 
induced by neurons. The extent of this search was an index of 
neurosynthesis. The application for humans is that drunk people lose 
memory from lack of neuron production. 
    BODY SELF-IMAGE & SOCIAL STATUS - By survey and actual measurement 
classmates were grouped by physical body attributes and self-image 
about their bodies. They were asked about social status, like 'dating' 
and staying 'single'. (The subjects were high school kids!) The data 
showed that students who felt poorly about their bodies had worse 
social status than those who had good feelings (thought, opinion) 
about their bodies. Obesity was a major body factor with strong 
correlation while height was not. 
    COLOR-TINTED VISION & BLOOD PRESSURE - The idea was that hot 
colors raise blood pressure, cool ones lower it, neutral ones have no 
change. Subjects were placed in a room to view it thru goggles with 
color filters over the lenses. After several minutes their blood 
pressure was measured. The hypothesis was false because both hot and 
cool colors lowered blood pressure. The filters were made from the 
gels of stage lighting in the school's theater.
    [a certain biometry] & AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR - For reasons of 
national security I may not elaborate on the specific biometry. The 
subjects were measured on this biometric parameter and their behavior 
was taken from school discipline or police records. The correlation 
was quite tight! The student proposes that it could be a possible 
adjunct for visual screening of people at, say, airports. After i got 
home I did my own tests. I measured photographs of people whose 
aggressive character was well documented. The effing hypothesis works! 
    LIRR COACH SEATS & RIDER COMFORT - This is the closest project to 
engineering, biometric engineering at least. The team rode the Long 
Island Rail Road and watched riders and empty seats. Avoidance of the 
middle of a three-across seat was specially strong for the LIRR's M1 
and M7 coaches. Unless the car got really crowded people prefer to 
stand rather than take an empty middle seat flanked by sitting riders. 
People were unwilling to ask, by way of a control test by the student 
team, a rider to clear a middle set of a shoulder bag so he could sit 
there. The M7 car has mostly two-across seats to make wider aisles, 
but has end sections with three-across seats. 
project to make up for a no-shoe, as explained below. The student 
collected World Health Organization and national data from 97 
countries for various economic indices and personal suicide rate. The 
more affluent countries, for individuals, had higher suicides than 
poorer countries. The student was careful to consider wealth 
concentration, like in a ruling sector of society, from that dispersed 
among the citizens. He also recognized that national data could be 
fudged to present a better image of the country. 
collected attendance records for PTA, parent day, report card meetings 
and the school grades of classmates. In general, when the parent (or 
other caretaker) interacted with the school, the pupil did better. 
Factors such as parent work schedules, parent education level, single-
parent homes, other siblings to care for, were considered but the 
correlation was quite strong. 
data from friends in several public schools for religious devotion. 
She left out schools run by a particular religion or that had a 
religion-like theme. Many religions were considered for adherence to 
feasts and fasts, church or similar services, self-prayer or ritual, 
dress or custom, The student found little trend for religious devotion 
and school grades, with a bad scatter across all levels of religious 
    And there was one more, a substitute for a no-show, but I just can 
not recall it. 
Out of the dark
    Great Hall was lighted by copious sunlight thru its tall wide 
windows. The chandeliers in daylight gave only a mood or accent of 
light with little additional illumination on the floor. Yet there were 
dark patches here and there among the exhibits. The display boards at 
times blocked the daylight, making it hard to see certain parts of 
them. I lived with this impediment for the first two exhibits, then 
was hit by a flash of thought. 
    In my shoulder bag I carry a pocket torch, to better read signs at 
night or navigate thru darker sections of street. I grabbed it out. 
Its narrow bright beam lighted the boards nicely for comfortable 
viewing of smaller details of graphs and pictures. The unit runs off 
of two AA batteries and weighs only a hundredish grams. Other judges 
in my vicinity stopped to see it and may get one for their own 
    Two of my projects were no-shows. The exhibit was set up by 
classmates but the project's student didn't attend to it. These I had 
to pass over for lack of interaction with the student. For my ten 
projects, I had two no-shows. As I looked around during the rests, I 
noticed what seemed to be a high level of no-shows thruout Great Hall. 
It looked like a full ten percent of the exhibits were unattended! 
    When the judges got together for lunch, almost every one i spoke 
with suffered no-shows! With no clear instructions for handling them, 
some judges did a blind assessment of just the display. Others asked 
adjacent students to explain the exhibit[! Others skipped them. 
    The plan for assigning projects included alternates in case of no-
shows. In the judging situation to hand, this provision was pretty 
much neglected. I, and Steve, by the way we got our roster of 
exhibits, were offered no alternates. 
    It seems that students specially prepared for the first show by
deferring holidays or travels. This rescheduled show probably
conflicted with them, preventing the student's participation this
    There were no-shoes of judges! I know only a few judges and missed
seeing certain ones of them. I just assumed that I missed them on the
floor. Over lunch and after the judging I heard judges noting that
Ms/Prof/Mr/Dr So-&-so didn't show up today.
    This no-show factor was a further complication in matching judges 
and projects. The student no-shows likely could not be anticipated 
because the students registered on arrival at the show. The judges, 
being generally adult in deportment, called in their absence days in 
    The fair crew had to redistribute projects across a smaller pool of 
judges. Could it be that I was given the behavioral science exhibits 
for lack of sufficient judges in that field? 
Too many, too few
    I could not know this on the floor, but during lunch and after the 
show I heard plenty. With the chaotic manner of lining up projects and 
judges, there was a breakdown in the frequency of judging for a given 
project. The student instructions stated that a project will be judged 
three or four times during the day. 
    The actual hour for each visit was not given, so the student had to 
stay near his display for the entire day. Only the lunch break 
relieved him. In previous years there was one visit, by a team of 
judges, after which the student could knock down his display and go 
    The uncertainty of the visits made for raucous gaggles of students 
laying or sitting in open parts of the floor. Some chatted with 
friends, played handheld video games, read books, played word or hand 
games with each other. Until a judge tapped them to attention, the 
students were bored giddy and silly. 
    The casual way -- dapper Dan at his laptop -- the projects were 
doled out resulted in utter imbalance between the frequency of judging 
a given project. One of Steve's kids was not judged at all until late 
in the day, and then only after he personally intervened to get a 
judge. Other projects were judged ten, eleven, or twelve times! In the 
afternoon, after the lunch break, things were desperate. 
    The barker continually called for judges in this or that field to 
please take a few more projects. None were asked for engineering or 
physical sciences, so I didn't answer these calls. 
Left over projects
    By the late afternoon, there were lots of projects with fewer than 
three assessments, many with none at all. Being that I had two no-
shows, I volunteered for makeup assignments. There were none needed in 
my field. With my work finished I wandered around to take in the other 
exhibits. I was still wearing my judge's badge. 
    On two occasions, a fair agent nailed me about taking an other
project. Are you free for a while? Can you do this project here? 
    I volunteered. One I just can not recall; the other was the one 
about suicide rates. I don't know what category they were in. They 
were many tables away from the 'cranberry' projects. In all, I judged 
ten projects, eight from the initial roster and two makeups. 
Abuse and hostility
    I heard in past years stories of hostile and abusive judges but I 
let them pass thru the ears. I never directly experienced any such 
person. At this fair I encountered a real nasty judge. At an exhibit a 
couple tables away, but in a voice loud enough for all to hear, one 
male judge was trashing out a student big time. The displays on the 
table are a little too tall to look over. I had no sightline to this 
guy. His verbal comments were enough. 
    This guy was accusing the student of copying the data from a 
professional source and not doing the work for himself. The student 
tried to explain that he did collect his own numbers. The judge 
disputed him as a faker. He then walked away claiming he's going to 
give the kid a low grade for trying to fudge up a project! 
    For the projects I myself inspected there were instances of data 
from both the student and an outside source. Usually this was the 
source inspiring the student to do the project or one who assisted the 
student. The two sets were in my cases clearly separate. The student 
used different tables, charts, colors, symbols to tell them apart. 
    Over lunch and after-show snack I heard from other judges of nasty 
ones on the floor. The stories were rather similar. It could be they 
all were talking about the same guy! Yet there were enough variations 
to suggest that we had several bad apples in the barrel. 
Finishing up
    Having done all of my visits, I went to the judge's room to hand in 
my cards. There was one assessment the written instructions made 
prominent mention of. In addition to the individual scores we were to 
order the projects from 'best' to 'worse' in overall value to science. 
    With the disconbobulations in the judging I just didn't get around 
to doing this relative ranking. I asked at the reception table if I 
should spend the extra minutes to do so. Apparently the desk agent so 
glad that I handed in anything she waved me off. I handed her the 
cards in whatever order they happened to be after all the shuffling 
around during my rounds. I just hope the Academy doesn't think I put 
the 'best' one on top with the others ranking down to 'worse' at the 
    Some other judges noted the same treatment for their cards. They 
hoped maybe the Academy will arrange the cards in order of individual 
grades, altho this was not the way the instructions wanted it. Even if 
this method was dutifully followed, it would only order the particular 
projects of a particular judge. There would be no consideration of the 
other judges's projects. In deed, a judge never knew who the other 
judges were, having gotten their assignments as independent persons. 
    Making matters worse is that this ranking procedure hangs from an 
organized assignment of projects to judges. At least judges for 
physical sciences can rank exhibits in physical sciences among 
themselfs. With the wholesale scramble of assignments today, plus the 
capricious treatment of makeup projects for no-shows, I hazard that 
the overall rating part of the judging just has to be cut loose. 
Heros of the show
    In spite of the foulup in the judging process and the punctuation 
of the boors, the real heros of the show were the students. Recall 
that they were here from a billoxed first attempt two weeks ago. Some 
may have toughed it out in the storm to find the show called off. Some 
took advantage of the extra two weeks to refine their project. 
    For the exhibits I visited, every single student, whether a solo 
or a team, knew the project and obviously put a lot of work into it. 
Their display panels were neat, clearly worded, Their graphs did vary 
a bit in clarity, most being plotted by computer with little control 
over typographic features. 
    The students answered all of my questions calmly, with detail, 
offering understanding and knowledge of the project. None tried to 
bluff or BS me, hide defects, make excuses. If they didn't know or 
consider some item, they admitted it and offered to look into it for a 
follow up project, college work, or career. 
Academy and fair crew
    Given the chaos of the day, which grew gradually worse hour after 
hour, I have to give excellent grades to the crew of the fair. 
Regardless of how mixed up their efforts were, each and every person 
from the Fair whom I worked with was thoroly polite, courteous, well-
meaning, helpful. Not a one was rude, gruff, abrupt, or in any way 
offensive. They did their instant chore, even if later it turned out 
to be wrong. 
    I did chat after the show with an Academy staff who works with its 
website. I noted that I refer to the website for items to include in 
my 'NYC Events' column. She asked for a copy, which later in the week 
I emailed to her. I included a flyer about NYSkies, too. 
Home stretch
    I lost track of Steve and Mr Kramer during the day. I hung around 
looking for them with no luck. By 4:30PM, after taking a final munch 
of the snacks, I left for home. I arrived home under the same 
illumination in evening twilight as I started from under morning 
    Later in the week I spoke with Steve. He was still doing projects 
at the Fair until 5:30PM! By late afternoon judges had enough of the 
day and left, leaving a depleted pool to continue the judging. 
    When he turned in his cards, there were only a couple Academy crew 
remaining in the judge's room. They, like for me, just put his cards 
in an envelope and thanked him. He let some of his students go home on 
their own and escorted the rest of them back to Brooklyn.