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Science Fairs | Supporting local, state and international science and engineering fairs

SPIE supports local, state and international science and engineering fairs by providing several Special Awards in Optics and Photonics. Volunteer judges review projects displayed at science fairs and select best projects where students apply optics or photonics related technology to their project.

The Society has awarded over $180,000 in cash awards since 2006 to 877 talented students from elementary through high school.

SPIE volunteers are welcome to judge optics or photonics related projects at science fairs. If you know of a science fair coming up in your area that we should be a part of, contact Ms. Pascale Barnett, Education Services Coordinator, pascale@spie.org.

In 2017 SPIE awarded cash prizes totaling over $16,000 to 83 talented students from elementary through high school.

Seminole County Regional Science and Engineering Fair

Sanford, Florida (3 February 2018)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Gerald Holst and Carl King

Rubina Torzaddeh (First Place), Tuskawilla Middle School
Project: Spectacular Spectrum!


Timothy Sheehan (Second Place), Crooms Academy of Information Technology
Project: How do Transparent Materials Affect the Speed of Light Waves


Gabriella Conde (Third Place), Lawton Chiles Middle School
Project: How is the bioluminescence of marine dinoflagellates affected by changes in the light/dark cycle?

Akron Science and Technology Expo

Akron, Ohio (27 January 2018)
SPIE Volunteer Judge: Julie Vanega

Paul Nemer (First Place), Firestone Community Learning Center
Project: The Significance of Anti-Phospholipase Antibodies in a Patient with Membranous Nephropathy


Luke Morber (Second Place), Miller S School for the Visual and Performing Arts
Project: Plant Power


Brenae Greer (Third Place), National Inventors Hall of Fame
Project: pH Balance

Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

Los Angeles, California(14-19 May 2017)

SPIE Member Volunteers:John Tamkin (Lead), Bartosz Bornik, Pramod Butte, Pangyu Ten


Nicky Wojtania(First Place), Plano West Senior High School (United States)
Project: Cellulose Nanocrystals for Security Applications: Embedding Non-Optical Signatures Provided by Nanoparticles into Cellular Nano


Valerio Pagliarino (Second Place), I.I.S. Nicola Pellati (Italy)
Project: LaserWAN - Laser Broadband Internet Connections


Dominic Catanzaro (Third Place), Cathedral Catholic High School (United States)
Project: Quick Aligning Telescopes


Gareth Reid (Fourth Place), Grosvenor Grammar School (Ireland)
Project: A low cost, digital optical device supporting education in developing countries


California State Science Fair

Los Angeles, California (25 April 2017)

SPIE Volunteer Judges: Pamela Blake, Janaka Ranasinghesagara

Senior Division:

Shalin Shah (First Place), Orange County
Project: Lumos: Automated Smartphone-based Opthtalmic Screening for Glaucoma using Computer Vision and Deep Learning Algorithms through Low-cost and non-Mydriatic Retinal Fundus Imaging


Dominic Catanzaro (Second Place), San Diego County
Project: Quick Aligning Telescopes


Shashank and Shishir Dholakia (Third Place), Santa Clara County
Project: Searching for Exoplanets: A Novel K2-Based Study of the Effects of Open Cluster Characteristics on Exoplanet Abundance


Junior Division:

Ian Weiss (First Place), Orange County
Project: Our Roads, a Large Thermoelectric Generator!


Matthew Brawders (Second Place), Ventura County
Project: Automating Cross Polarized Lenses to Control Lux Levels Received by a Sensor


Ty Koebler (Third Place), Santa Cruz County
Project: A Driver's Risk of UV Exposure


Alabama Science and Engineering Fair

Huntsville, Alabama (7 April 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Tommy Cantey, H. Philip Stahl

Senior Division:

Sophie Guo (First Place), James Clemens High School
Project: Gold Nanodisk Plasmonic Biochemical Sensor for Food Safety Monitoring


Tucker Honeycutt (Second Place), Covenant Christian Academy
Project: Astonomical Image Processing


Catherine Blevins (Third Place), Decatur Presbyterian Church School
Project: Interpreting Light: Exploring the Emission Spectrum


Junior Division:

Hannah Patterson (First Place), Clark Shaw Magnet Middle School
Project: Algebraic Hot Spots


Andrew Crocker (Second Place), Rainbow Elementary School
Project: Stealthy Shapes


Javon Jennings (Third Place), Key Destiny Academy
Project: Solar Revolution: Using the Sun for a More Efficient Solar Cooker


Colorado Science and Engineering Fair

Fort Collins, Colorado (7 April 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Frank Melsheimer, Robert Philbrick, Jesse Wilson

Senior Division:


Molly Nehring (First Place), Monte Vista High School
Project: Dancing with the Stars: Simulating Multi-Star Solar Systems and the Probability of Planetary Ejection


Drake Ludgate and Nathaniel Miner (Second Place), Brush High School
Project: Black Carbon Detection


Karry Pileggi (Third Place)
Project: The Effects of Auxin with External Factors on Root Growth


Junior Division:

Julie Warnock (First Place), Poudre Global Academy
Project: Habitats Most Effected by Light Pollution


Anna Dery (Second Place), Holy Family Catholic School
Project: Distance to the Stars


Kylie Walters (Third Place), The Classical Academy
Project: The Blind Side


Washington State Science and Engineering Fair

Bremerton, Washington (1 April 2017)


Adeline and Claire Hiller (First Place), Newport High School
Project: Visual Hearing Aid


Angeline Cartwright and Elizabeth Jurgensen (Second Place), Mountlake Terrace High School
Team Project:Cost Efficient Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells


D. Abonza (Third Place)


Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (31 March 2017)

Laura Legzdins (First Place), Montclair Public School
Project: A Solar Solution: The SunLight Purifier


Sabrina Stojanovic (Second Place), Winona Public School
Project: Using X-Ray Data to Analyze Supernovas


Alex Flannery and Joseph Smith (Second Place), Kings Christian Collegiate
Project: SPF Testing of Commercial and Natural Sunscreens


Minnesota State Science and Engineering Fair

Minneapolis, Minnesota (25 March 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Michael Maurer

Senior Division:

Jiaheng He and Sung Wan Huh (First Place), Breck School
Team Project: From Takeout Box to Organic Laser: Transforming the Industry by Engineering a Transparent Laser


Abigail Banks-Hehenberger (Second Place), Stillwater Area High School
Project: Spectroscopic Analysis of Lightbulb Components


Braxton Kukulka and Connor Braxton (Third Place), Burnsville High School
Team Project: Increasing the Efficiency of a Photo-volatile System with Calcium Chloride Hexahydrate Based Passive Cooling System


Junior Division:

Nick Wiest (First Place), Friedell Middle School
Project: Hydrogen Gas in the Visible Spectrum


Keegan Bersie-Mize (Second Place), St Thomas Moore Catholic School
Project:Energy Required to Light Different Colors of LEDs


Helen Francis and Karja Maier (Third Place)
Project: Woah, That’s Intense


Orange County Science and Engineering Fair

Costa Mesa, California (13 April 2016)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Pamela Blake, Michael Papac


Helen Kang and Jenny Li (First Place), University High School
Team Project: A Java-based Algorithmic Model of Indoor Lighting System for Energy Conservation


Cassandra Man (Second Place), Woodbridge High School
Project: The Effect of Visible Light Irradiation on Photocatalyst-mediated Decolorization of Crystal Violet in Wastewater


Jennifer Choi (Third Place)


North Carolina Science and Engineering Fair

Raleigh, North Carolina (2 April 2016)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Russell Philbrick, Herman Towles

Senior Division:

Ashley Yang (First Place), NC School of Science & Mathematics
Project: Use of a Gallium Nitride Array to Increase Photoexcitation in a Molybdenum Disulfide Device


Kevin Jin (Second Place), William Amos Hough High School
Project: Modeling a Nano-scaled Multilayer to Optimize Solar Panel Efficiency

MaKenze Craver (Third Place), Dalton McMichael High School
Project: Thrifty as Efficient as Professional


Junior Division:

Ana Ratanaphruks (First Place), Sterling Montessori Academy
Project:Grading Olive Oil Using a Low-Cost Laser Induced Fluorescence Spectrometer


Jake Bleck (Second Place), Morehead Middle School
Project:Infrared Car Detector 2


Alexia Cash (Third Place), Southlake Christian Academy
Project:Lighten Up


12th Annual Science and Engineering Expo

Cincinnati, Ohio (19 March 2016)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Robert Trusty

Adval Shivakumar (First Place), Nagel Middle School
Project: Absorption and Emission by Different Colors

Conor Bohrer (Second Place), All Saints School
Project: LED Brightness and how it Varies with Current

Suvan Adhikari (Third Place), Walnut Hills High School
Project: Which Light Bulb Is Most Efficient?


Badger State Science and Engineering Fair

Milwaukee, Wisconsin (19 March 2016)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Mehdi Azimipour, Hao Jiang

Arundhati Pillai (First Place), University School of Milwaukee
Project: Next Generation Surgical Tool using Three-Dimensional (3-D) Printing for Cerebral Aneurysm Treatment


Daniel Glazer (Second Place), University School of Milwaukee
Project: Galaxy Clusters: Filling in the Gaps with New Discoveries


Alexander Diebold (Third Place), Evansville High School
Project: Classification of Cosmic-Ray Pariticles using a Machine Learning Program


Chicago Public Schools Student Science Fair

Chicago, Illinois (18 March 2016)
SPIE Volunteer Judge: George Magerl, Optical Society of Chicago


Kaitlyn Mullins (First Place), Kellogg School
Project: Which Wavelength Will Charge a Mobile Phone


Andrea Martinez (Second Place), Franklin School
Project: The Effect of Temperature on Solar Panels


Joseph Palomares (Third Place), Amundsen High School
Project: Effect of Ultraviolet Light on E.coli K12


Northeastern Ohio Science and Engineering Fair

Cleveland, Ohio (15 March 2016)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Marc Chappo, Anthony Roberts, Qi-Huo Wei


Carter Zimmerman (First Place), St. Ambrose Middle School
Project: Laser Strikes


Lauren Clar (Second Place), Beachwood Middle School
Project: How Does Light Wave Frequency Effect the Growth of Plants?



Yifan Amy Wang (Third Place), Solon Middle School
Project: How does exposing the seeds of pea plants to microwave radiation affect their growth

Alameda County Science and Engineering Fair

Pleasanton, California (12 March 2016)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Brent Bergner, Jingmin Leng, Jochen Straub, Richard Yang, XiaoMin Yang


Erika Yang (First Place, Senior Div.), Granada High School
Project: Developing a Nanoscale-Field-Effect-Transistor (NanoFET) Biosensor based on MoS2 2D Material for Detecting Low Concentration Illness-Related Biomarker Molecules


Vinkat Krishnan (Second Place, Senior Div.), American High School

Rachel Guo (Third Place, Senior Div.), Irvington High School
Project: Globular Star Clusters in the Outer Halo of the Virgo Cluster's Central Galaxy

Arnav Gupta (First Place, Junior Div.), Stratford Fremont Middle School
Project: Time to Wake-Up the World of Drowsy Drivers



Aaron Ruiz (Second Place, Junior Div.)
Project: How does the temperature of a multicolored LED flashlight affect the light intensity it produces?



Samantha Ma and Helena Mekuanint (Second Place, Junior Div.), Chinese Christian School
Team Project: Solar Oven vs Conventional Oven



South Suburban Student Science Fair

Chicago, Illinois (12 March 2016)
SPIE Volunteer Judge: George Magerl, Optical Society of Chicago

Alexander Martin (First Place), Hinsdale Central High School
Project: The Effect of Mirrors on Solar Panel Power Output


Jake Klimek (Second Place), Clifford Crone Middle School
Project: How Does Exterior Color of a Box Affect Heat Absorption


North Alabama Regional Science and Engineering Fair

Huntsville, Alabama (11 March 2016)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Tommy Cantey and H. Philip Stahl

Connor Reed (First Place), St. John Paul II Catholic High School
Project: Ultrasonic Levitation



Riley Laurendine (Second Place), St. John Paul II Catholic High School
Project: Follow the Sun



Brianna Morgan Wells (Third Place)



North Suburban Student Science Fair

Chicago, Illinois (3 March 2016)
SPIE Volunteer Judge: George Magerl, Optical Society of Chicago

Ronje Roy (First Place), Quest Academy
Project: Can Light Refraction be used to Determine Sugar Content of Various Drinks?


Rushi Bhatt (Second Place)
Project: Light Absorption Behavior in Sunscreen Chemicals for Solar Cell Applications


Penn Hills School District Linton Middle School Science Fair

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, (25 February 2016)
SPIE Volunteer: Jelena Janjic, Linda Peteanu, Haiyin Sun


Browndon Wafo (First Place), Linton Middle School
Project: Dark Secret


Lillian Gamache (Second Place), Linton Middle School
Project: Plant Photonics - Artificial UVA/UVB vs. Natural Sunlight


Thomas Senge (Third Place), Linton Middle School
Project: PIzza Box Solar Oven


Region V Mississippi Science and Engineering Fair

Mississippi State, Mississippi (23 February 2016)
SPIE Volunteers: Jenny Q. Du


Joseph Davide (First Place), Kosciusko High School
Project: Blue Energy


Miguel Garcia, Nicholas Pope, and Ilse Padilla (Second Place), Kosciusko High School
Team project: Radio Telescope

Ayan Taylor (Third Place), Choctaw County High School
Project: Light with Lead