Science Fairs

Tis the season of science fairs. For the past month, science fairs have been occurring across the country and world all culminating to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair which is held in the middle of May. The Intel ISEF will have students from over 70 countries and territories across the world and will culminate a variety of projects and research in the STEM field. The Eastern Iowa Science and Engineering Fair (EISEF) was 2 weeks ago. I got the opportunity to compete in the event and walking into the mall where the fair was held felt like a whole new world. There were kids standing next to their projects from one end of the mall to the other and the topics ranged from the most effective way to brush your teeth, to how salt effects pot holes, to manipulation of proteins within the nucleus of cells. Students were from all over Eastern Iowa and were between 6th and 12th grade.

Over the course of the day I learned quite a lot. It was great to talk to the different students and learn how they chose their topic of research. Some based their research off the farms they lived on while others worked in local college labs. The location of the science fair (inside a popular mall) was ideal, because it was the perfect way to communicate the importance of science and research to the public. I also found it encouraging when a random stranger took time out of their shopping to learn more about my research. The judges for the first round of the competition were engaging and interested putting all the students at ease. With all the posters lined up close to one another, the science fair was a great way to meet new people. I got the chance to talk and network with several peers who had similar interests with me.

At the end of a long day, everyone gathered for the award ceremony. Though it dragged on for over an hour, it was exciting to see friends recognized for all the hard work they had put into the project. Next time there is a science fair near you, I would really recommend paying a visit. Not only is it almost guaranteed to have at least one topic that interests you, it will give you an idea of what the future will be like and will hopefully intrigue your kids!


Germanwings Flight Crash

Traveling is always an interesting experience; personally I find it quite enjoyable. As the saying goes, the journey is just as important as the destination. My favorite mode of transportation is flying. I love the anti-gravity feel of take-offs and the occasional turbulence that reminds me of rollercoasters. Flights have always symbolized an important and adventurous journey to me. However, recently as you may know, a Germanwings flight crashed into the Alps, killing 150 people.

This served as a reminder that no many how many precautions are taken, 100% security is impossible to ensure. According to current intelligence, Mr. Lubitz, the pilot, intentionally crashed the plane into the Alps. The co-pilot repeatedly attempted to get back into the cockpit to prevent descent but was locked out by the other pilot. A previous doctor’s notes indicated that the pilot had depression at one point. While it is unjust to claim that the depression solely led to Mr. Lubitz actions, especially since there are no survivor to attest to Mr. Lubitz’s behavior that day (to determine whether or not he was even depressed at the time), many headlines have linked his depression to his actions.

You don’t often hear pilot suicide leading to an intentional plane crash, yet it has occurred several times in the past. Despite this scare it is good to remember that millions of flight go into the air on a daily basis and tragedies occur very rarely when looking at percentages. A psychologist might say, availability heuristics contribute to the mindset of individuals that plane are more dangerous than daily transport in cars.

A major point that has been emphasized by this horrendous incident is that mental afflictions must be taken seriously. It is often easy to blame the individual and accuse them of inducing their own mental ailment, but often these diseases are a result of personal hardships and life experiences. No matter how much we may hope, these aren’t simply induced by the person, and can’t be wished-away by strong will. Our society needs to accept the seriousness of these diseases by opening up more mental health care centers and making the public more aware of how to deal with these issues.

Now that I have runoff into my own tangent on this issue, let me sum it up by saying this: don’t let this incident be a dissuasion for flying and traveling, rather understand and learn how you can help others afflicted by mental handicaps. I hope you have safe travels 🙂

Quaint Villages in the Countryside

When visiting a foreign country it is always tempting to go to the big city and hit up all the famous tourist attractions, however, I suggest taking the time to explore the rural country side and get a feel for the true culture, not just the tourist catered attractions. In England there are many quaint towns outside of London.

Bath is an especially beautiful town with a great history. Less than 2000 years ago, taking a bath was a luxury. Bath is home to a large Roman Bath House made for emperors. It is a natural hot spring that has been guided into three specific pools. The water is graciously warm for the rainy, windy weather in the United Kingdom, at roughly 95 degrees Celsius.

roman bath

Aside from the bath, there are many other scenic and beautiful place in Bath. My absolute favorite place in is Prior Park. This was once the large estate of Ralph Allen, a very wealthy man who owned a majority of Bath. This park is beautiful and very well maintained and it is now owned by the National Trust. The small dirt path that runs in a circle around the park gives a sense of adventure and goes by a picturesque lake with swans, goose, and a nice tea shed.

prior park

Tea houses dot the entire town. Afternoon tea is very popular in England so many stores serve tea with sweet pastries. I took my first real sip of tea in Sally Lunn. Unfortunately I am not a very big fan of the taste of tea but I did love the pastries (which were cinnamon buns; they taste much like an American cinnamon roll). Many small towns in England also have fresh food markets. Cotswold has many farmers markets selling a wide range of items from fresh fruit to paintings.

In addition to visiting the towns themselves, the drives to each city are worth experiencing. For any American reader, you will find the roads are extremely narrow and everyone drives on the wrong side of the road. Roundabouts are also quite common on highways. The fields on the sides of highways are home to numerous sheep and other animals like pigs, cows, and horses. Overall, the landscape is quite hilly; personally I think driving in the streets feels like a roller coaster. In addition, this landscape gives a great view of the entire town before you get to it.

rural sheep steep road

Overall, I really appreciate the rural districts tend and feel that they hold a lot more of the true culture than a few tourist attractions may in the heart of the main city. Next time you visit with the countryside!


Food is a very important part of all cultures and religions. It is often a way to unite families and bring communities together. Certain dietary restrictions can be observed based on values, preferences, or local availability.

I am a vegetarian and have been for the past five years. It wasn’t a religious choice or related to culture. To tell you the truth, I was sitting in the cafeteria at the beginning of the year in 6th grade and a friend of mine was eating a strange looking bagel with a veggie spread (she herself stated it was disgusting). The rest of us were sitting there eating out chicken patties and I asked her why she had opted for that meal. She explained that she had seen many horrific videos on PETA about animal cruelty and had made the personal decision to give up meat. Hearing this, I decided to give vegetarianism a shot. I could pretend that I was solely driven to make this decision because of animal cruelty, and though that was a part of it, I really just wanted to try something new and see if I had the will power to make this change in my life.

When I made the announcement to my parents that night, they didn’t quite believe me. My mom has been a vegetarian her whole life. She never tried to convince me to be a vegetarian, deeming that it should be my own choice, but none-the-less was surprised by my sudden decision. My dad on the other hand thought that this was just another phase since I loved eating his shrimp and chicken dishes. My dad and my brother made a bet about when I would crack. My brother thought I would crack the first time we ordered chicken wings from pizza hut, and my dad thought I would the next time he made his special shrimp. Neither of them were right: five years later I am still a vegetarian.

Recently, vegetarianism has been a growing trend in America but it is a way of life for many around the world. Though it many wonder how nutritional needs are met as a vegetarian, there are many options. Most south Indian food is both vegetarian and rich in protein. A typical meal that my mom makes consist of rice, lentils, and yogurt. Restaurants have also become more considerate of vegetarian meals.

No matter where I go, I can find at least one vegetarian option now. Even steak houses offer salads and soups. If you ever are worried about dietary needs or food availability just remember it doesn’t have to be a challenge.

Spring Break

For many students Spring Break is either this week or next week. This break is treasured by all students because it gives everyone a chance to unwind from their hectic school lives. Many families take this opportunity to travel to new places, or revisit past memories, but for those of you staying home all week long, you are luck too. There is nothing like the safety and comfort of your own home. Though you live there, many students don’t get a chance to truly be home during the school year because of homework, activities, school, and work.

Break is the perfect time to catch up with your family and regain all the free time you have missed.

For all of you book lovers, visit your local library and digest all the latest books. I have begun reading Oliver Sacks’s work. Though this originally began as a homework assignment, I find his writing and the case studies he presents, fascinating. This neuroscientist examines odd and somewhat rare diseases in the brain that result in some pretty peculiar situations, whether it is a blind person experiencing vivid hallucinations, or a man mistaking his wife for a hat.

For all of you movie lovers, the Oscars announced all of the best movies for last year so you can watch Selma, Birdman, The Imitation Game, Boyhood, among other great films. A popular new movie coming out this Friday is Insurgent, the second movie in the Divergent series. Break is also a nice time to re-watch all the great classic comfort movies whether that is The Proposal, Bridesmaid, Harry Potter, or Star Wars.

For all of you who love spending time with your friends and family there are many creative things you can do together over break. Baking and cooking together unites a family like nothing else and it is always nice to add some variety to you daily food. All of you can visit that new place in town or simply sit back and share stories with each other.

All, in all, break is the perfect time to unwind. Even if you aren’t traveling anywhere exotic, you can make the best of it!

Stay Protected

Social media makes everyone more interconnected and in many ways it is phenomenal. As I have mentioned on this blog many times before, social media helps me stay in touch with friends and family anywhere around the world. There are, however, some adverse effects of theses social media sites, typically the concern regard exposing too much information. Every teenager has been warned a thousand times not to post anything they will regret because employers check social media before hiring a candidate. Privacy breeches or individuals’ lack of awareness about privacy settings on social media has put personal information in the hands of unwanted strangers. Furthermore, some users friend individuals who they have little to no real-life connection with. These bad practices have led to individuals being robbed and kidnapped. Now whenever a social media account is made, individuals are warned against sharing too much personal information. This can become extremely hard for individuals excited to share information with their friends far and near.

Many schools are on spring break this week or next week. While many families stay home, some travel. For those who are traveling, it is extremely tempting to share that excitement on Facebook or Twitter but recent stories have indicated that skilled robbers scour the internet for this information and rob houses when their tenants are out. PLEASE DO NOT POST INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR TRIP UNTIL YOU HAVE RETURNED HOME.

There are several measures that can be taken to ensure safety while you are out.

1)Having a home security system is obviously the best preventative measures; not only will authorities be informed immediately if there is a robbery, but security cameras will capture footage making it far easier to track the robbers.

2) Have a reliable family member or friend check on the house every few days, both to water any plants and to make sure that nothing in the house looks awry.

3) Set random alarms in the house. This way if a robber does come and hears an alarm go off, they may be fooled into believing that someone is home. This is usually enough to send the robber running.

4) If you are inspired by the Home Alone movie series, booby-trap your entire house 🙂

After you have taken all these preventative measures, enjoy your trip. Take the time to explore new regions and cultures, and take a breath from you daily schedule and hectic lives!

Global day

Leadership for Five Seasons (LFS) is a program for high school students in my city to introduce them to networking opportunities, and introduce the students to all the available options. From September to March, once a month, these students meet. Each day has its own leadership theme and the very last day in March is a student-led day. Individuals within the group vote on a day and the student committee plans the entire day. This year our class chose to do a Global Day to understand the diversity within our city and to get an idea of what it is like to work in the diverse work economy.

Being on the planning committee, I got the opportunity to compose professional emails, work in a team, and deal with last minute cancelation. By the time the schedule had been finalized, this was the plan for the day

-have foreign exchange students from the different high schools come and be part of a panel, answering any of the student’s questions

-sign language challenge where we learned how to do a basic introduction

-tour of the Czech and Slovak Museum

-free time in the Czech Village to explore the antique stores and bakery

-lunch at a Mexican restaurant

-A diversity fair with representatives from Algeria, India, China and two local non-profit organizations that work with eliminating barriers for immigrants and integrating them into the work force

-leadership activities at the end that introduced to students with the diversity within their own group

In the surveys we had at the end, almost every student stated that they felt they had gone around the world in just one day. Eating various cultural foods (kolaches, fajitas, rice, samosas, and traditional Algerian food) we learned about the values of different cultures and the available spices and ingredients in that area.

Our group was also exposed to many religions from Hinduism, to Islam, to a lack of any religion. We were also enlightened about schooling systems from around the world. In Germany, each student has 12 to 16 classes with different classes every day of the week. In China, different schools have different intensities but in one boarding school has classes from 7 am to 10 pm every day with a two hour break for lunch and a nap. College is also far less expensive with some countries offering a free college education and others having even the most expensive colleges, cost less than $10,000 a year. Overall, we walked away understanding that based on what the foreign exchanges students have seen so far, the American education system is far easier than other countries.

Throughout the day we all got to hear different languages and the variations in dialect among each place. For the foreign exchange-student panel, we had two students from different regions of China and though they were both speaking ‘Chinese’ they couldn’t understand each other because of the vast differences in regional dialects.

Global day really introduced me to all the diversity present in my city, which I had always thought of as … bland. In 8 hours I got to travel around the world.