John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc 
 2014 March 15

    This year's  New York city Science and Engineering Fair was on 
2015 March *** at City College of new York. The standard procedure for 
me is to accompany Mr Steve Kaye and his contestants to the Fair and 
help mind them there and on the way home afterwards.
    Steve, a science teacher at James Madison High School in 
Brooklyn . He is planning to retire form that post at the end of the 
spring semester and is studying the various options available under a 
newly enacted teacher union contract. 
    He is also a special project mentor at the school for robotics and 
works with robotics contests. It chanced that one contest he was 
working with was held on this very day of the Fair! he knew that weeks 
ago and arranged for an other teacher to shepherd his students.
    Since these students and other teacher were meeting at some remote 
station from my house, he allowed that I did not have to meet them 
there for the Fair  I should join up with Kaye at the College for the 
judges's breakfast and instructions at 10AM.

What a relief!
    Normally Kaye and I meet at the Kings Highway station of the 
Brighton line at 7AM to herd his students to the Fair. This early hour  
allowed time to  muster up the students and get their displays set up 
before having to head for the judging meeting.
    Since I now didn't have to be at the College until 10AM, for the 
meeting, I could -- for once -- sleep late. I woke up at 7AM and left 
my house at about 8:15AM. What a relief to still be in bed at 7 and 
not lingering in a train station at that hour. 

What a bonus@
    A bonus for sleeping later is that by the time I was up and about, 
the rest of my household was also going about its business. That made 
it easy to have at least a startup meal before running off to the 
Fair. With the standard routine I often got on the way with no or a 
minimal snack.
     Now I had coffee and buttered bagel. and I pocketed a couple 
crunchy bars. I didn't need a full breakfast because at the Fair an 
abundance of food and drink are set out for the judges. 

Sunshine departure
    My later departure from home was also in full daylight, not the 
dawn or sunrise lighting of past years. I took my bus from the corner 
of my block to the Brighton line, almost as I usually do for the Fair. 
This time I boarded a train heading uptown to the City, on the way to 
City College. 
    Trains on this line come every eight or ten minutes in mid morning, 
already laden with riders on their way to the City. I found a seat, 
one of few empty ones in my coach. Along the route in Brooklyn the 
coach filled up with more riders until they were in loose-packed 
standing density. There was an exchange of riders in Brooklyn Downtown 
and in manhattan, so the crowding stayed about th same until I got off 
at Herald Square.
    Herald Square is the transfer station for trains continuing to 
City College. Brighton line trains on Sundays turn off to Queens in 
midtown Manhattan, not getting near the College.
    The second train, on the 6th Av line, zipped me to the College's 
station in good time  Nothing special occurred along the way. I moped 
for most of the ride.

At the College
    The day was cool and sunny,quite pleasant for walking. Because 
there were no Kaye and students to look after, I went directly to the 
North Academic Center. This is a hunk of a Destructionist design 
across the street from the core campus. I arrive at around 9:45 to 
meet other judges lining up for their project assignments. I took up 
my judge's folder. 
    I was assigned to 'Behavioral sciences'. My specialty is the 
physical sciences and engineering, yet the Fair in its wisdom put me 
into 'Behavioral sciences'. 
    I headed for the dining room for breakfast. I ate a 'breakfast at 
home but I was still eager to fill up now. The offerings were good, 
both hot and cold, with freely taken seconds, and thirds, and ... . I 
already had a few chewies with me, letting me pass up stuffing muffins 
and croissants into my shoulder bag. Actually, this wasn't possible 
because all the items were open, not wrapped or bagged. Loose breads 
would have crushed into messy crumbs in my bag. 
    In the dining room I hunted for my table. The project categories 
are deployed all over the floor, even in remote corners, with tent 
signs on the tables. As fate had it, a found my table in a far alcove.     
It didn't matter because the instructions were voiced by PA and this 
table was close to the food counters. 
    There were six other judges at my table, a bit of a tight fit. All 
of us were previous judges with about half from schools and half from 
    We sat, and ate,  thru several pep talks by Fair and College 
officials, then a Fair agent walked us thru the judging process. 
    First task was to inspect the fudge folder we got at sign-in. It 
and cover sheet, judge's badge, and ID stickers. 
    We then waited as Fair agents cruised thru the tables leaving 
packs of project papers for each. Each project for our table had 
several copies of its papers. We were told to divide up the projects 
to ourselfs so that each hd at least four projects with no duplicates. 
If there were leftover projects, e should give them to an agent to 
 offer at other tables i
    Each project consisted of an abstract and a scoring sheet. We 
attached an judge ID sticker to each of our project scoring sheets 
Then we wrote on the cover sheet the project ID numbers, taken from 
the abstracts. This procedure tied the set of projects to the judge 
and the group of judges to each project.
    The scoring sheet was like last year's with several factors to 
rate by filling in bubbles. The rating was either 1-5 or 1-10, d, with 
1 as poorest or worse and 5/10 the best.
    The factors were groups into four or five major sections. I figured 
to do as in the past and rate the project once for each section and 
jill of its bubbles for that rating. If, say, 'Presentation' was rated 
'8', I would fill in all the bubbles in the 'Presentation' section as 
    The instructions finished and so was our food intake, we marched 
en bloc across the street to Shepard Hall.

Great Hall
    Shepard Hall looks like a cathedral with two arched wings on each 
side. The classrooms and offices are in these wings. The main salon is 
a humongous cathedral-like chamber once used for 'assembly day' or  
convocation . It, with the rest of the core campus, is almost fully 
restored and renovated. The major work to do as I saw it was getting 
the flags washed or replaced. Flags from many European universities 
hang along the side walls, laden with dirt built up over the century'' 
life of the campus.
    For the Fair the Hall was fitted with rows and rows of folding 
lunch tables. The rows and aisles were labeled with large signs 
carrying both a letter and the name of category. Projects for 
behavioral science were on tables near the left front of Great Hall.
    Project displays were mounted on the tables within delineated 
spaces about a meter wide and half the depth of the table./ The spot 
was given a sequential number along the table.
    Finding the project to visit was easy because the scoring sheet 
had the project title and its table/spot coordinate.
    The back, entrance, of Great Hall was taken up by Fair crew and a 
snack counter. It served small bags of assorted munchies, bottled 
water, canned soda. The attendants kept barking out that we may take 
ONE bag, can, bottle. I saw judges and students picking up two or more 
at a time.

The displays
    The displays were more varied than previously, due mostly to the 
wide-spread use of computer-generated text and graphics. There few 
stencil and paper cut/paste work. One distraction was that some 
displays had a textured background with text laid over it. It was 
tough to read some of the words where they crossed over similar color 
parts of the background.
    All displays had to fit within the meter width on the marked off 
space on the table. Most were of the three-panel model, a large 
backboard and two angled wings. This model allowed for a crown or 
headboard to sit on top of the wings. There seemed to e height limit 
other than practicality.
    Unlike in prior years we as judges did not look for specific 
layout or outline on the displays. We relied on the narration of the 
students to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the project. I 
myself did examine particular graphs and photos and asked the student 
to elaborate on them.
    Portable computers were common for showing short animations or 
videos and to hold the student's reference files. There seemed to be 
no constraint on using these devices but we did have to judge the 
project from the hard paper display.
    As yet there were no animated graphics in the displays but I can 
foresee that in a few years there could be thin flat devices to hang 
on the board as to turn on for the judge to watch.

The projects
    My specialty for the Fair was engineering and physical science. At 
the mustering desk I was given only projects in the behavior sciences. 
I didn't mind since as long as a judge was well practiced in one 
discipline he could figure out most others, surely as presented by 
high school students.
    I'm not here giving a review of all of the projects. All relied on 
surveys of friends and family and fellow students. The survey results 
were tabulated and some conclusions were extracted. In most of the 
projects the end result was there were too few returns from the survey 
or there were too many extraneous factors. The student presented his 
intent and goal, described the method, and then summed up that more 
work was needed.
    The presentations on the whole were adequate, given the loose data 
collection, and I gave passing grades to them.
    I had four projects to judge:
    * Bad habits and their fa friends: The effects of adolescent 
procrastination and time management and sugar and fat consumption
    * The effectiveness of sex education in high school students
    * Digital natives, digital newcomers: The effects of Adolescent 
perceptions of parental technological intelligence on and perception 
of parental authority
    * Ukrainian nationalism
    Projects in behavioral sciences tend to be surveys to determine 
the effect of one factor on an other among people. The student builds 
a set of questions, asks other people the questions, and analyzes 
the answers. To do a survey of students in school, some 
nasty burocracy is endured. A contestant can not just hand out 
questionaries within the school. The subject and actual questions must 
be approved by the mentor for the project and then approved by higher 
officials in the school and Department of Education. 
    All the projects 
appeared to have duly approved material.For surveys done outside the 
school, among neighbors, passers-by on the street, and the like, I 
have no clue how the school rules apply.

The Ukraine
    The last project I judged was specially good, earning a 
higher score in my judging. The student surveyed Ukrainian residents 
in her neighborhood concerning the current rise of national 
identity in the Ukraine. There was increasing tensions in the Ukraine 
between the native Ukrainians and Russians living there.
    The Ukraine, a separate country before World War I, was absorbed 
into the Soviet Union in 1919 and became the Ukrainian SSR province. 
About 183 of its residents, all in the eastern part of the country, 
are Russians. The central and western part has the other 2/3 as native 
    As a new country after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the 
Ukraine wants to ally with Europe, maybe joining the Common Market and 
NATO. It was already a UN member state under Soviet rule, probably a 
concession to Stalin after World War II, and kept its seat as an 
independent nation.
    Under Putin, Russia wants to pull the Ukraine into Russian 
domination again. He wages a campaign on nationalism for the Russian 
eastern part of the Ukraine to break away and merge into Russia. The 
effort hasn't succeded, maybe not yet?, and there were already 
skirmishes between Russian infiltrators and Ukrainian military units.
    The student found that just about all of her Ukrainian neighbors, 
natives and Russian, want the uKraine to be its own nation, apart from 
Russia. She learned that the Russian people she surveyed left the 
Ukrain mainly to get away from Russian subjugation    Most of her people favor closer ties with Europe or at least a 
neutral status. None think of the Ukraine as a territory belonging to 
    In mid march 2014, as i was composing this article, open 
hostilities broke out between Russia-backed armies and Ukrainian 
forces. Fighting was telecast in the news media in and near the 
Ukraine capital of Kiev.
    Russia claims it was protecting its own people from Ukrainian  
suppression. It offered to annex the Russian part of the country into 
itself! No one knows how or when this conflict will end.

All over
    With judging complete, there was a bit of tidying up on the score 
sheets and judge cover sheet. This done,  I handed in my score sheets 
to the Fair office outside Great Hall. I had to turn in my Judge's 
badge but the crew let me keep the abstracts. I got a on-the-spot 
printed certificate of appreciation, a thank-you gift, and a lunch 
    The gift was a Rubik cube with faces spelling out words about the 
Fair. One corner of the cube had a key holder, which was totally  
useless. No one will hang a key on it and then carry the cube in the 
pocket. The holder was weakly glued to the corner. I easily extracted 
it for discard. This toy may be a conversation piece on my desk? 
    With no Steve with me this time I took lunch, a chicken sandwich, 
large soda, and bag of chips. I was allowed to take an extra bagel to 
munch on the way home.
    I left the College near 2 PM EDST and headed home. I was home far 
earlier than usual because I did not have to help Mr kaye bring his 
kids back to Brooklyn after the public viewing.
    I was in my house at quite 4OM for a relaxed remainder of the