Chao, Laraib show off at international fair


Jeffrey Wang, Staff Writer

Oxford High School students Shawn Chao and Fatima Laraib qualified on the international level for a prestigious science fair hosted in Phoenix, Arizona, May 7 through May 12.

To qualify for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, students in Mississippi must either advance from the regional, become best of state or best of state alternate.

Chao, a junior at OHS, advanced from the state level by becoming the first alternate at the state level, and Fatima Laraib, also a junior, advanced from the regional level.

ISEF attendees had various activities to attend during the almost weeklong trip, such as listening to Nobel Laureates’ lectures, visiting the Grand Canyon, and attending scientific demonstrations from different universities.

“I think that the activities that ISEF provides are wonderful for the competitors,” said Region 7 Fair Director Matthew DeLoach, “as it helps them both relax and prepare for the competition, as the lectures can enhance the finalists’ presentation skills, along with fun activities such as the Intel Quad, which displays some of the newest technology.”

Even with all the other activities, competition day is still very stressful and, yes, competitive, with more than 1,700 finalists, all competing at the same time, in the 22 categories ISEF has to offer.

Competitors also must present up to 20 times during the entire day, starting from 8 a.m. and going as late as 7 p.m.

“I thought that competition day at ISEF was very interesting and hard,” Laraib said, “as every finalist is an expert in their field and all have extensive backgrounds in research, and the judges were also some of the best in the world in their respective categories, with many coming from prestigious universities such as MIT or Harvard.”

At the end of the competition, Chao won one of the Fourth Award of $500 prizes in the category of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Awards are awarded to the top 25 percent of finalists in their respective categories.

“I was very surprised that I won a grand prize while competing at Intel ISEF for my second time,” Chao said, “as many people do not win until their third or fourth year going. Being a grand prize winner was also a big shock, considering many of the projects in my category.

“Hopefully, though, I can use this experience and continue to come to ISEF, and possibly win next year.”