CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nearly 300 third through twelfth grade public school students have come a long way to show off their science, math, and engineering projects during an annual, statewide fair in Charleston.

The West Virginia Science and Engineering Fair was held at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center Monday where students across eight regions of the state were competing.

The fair acts as an entry point for high school students to qualify for the Regeneron International Science Fair in Los Angeles, California in May.

An 11th grade student at Spring Mills High School in Martinsburg, Sydney Bostic is already on her way to the international fair. She said it’s an opportunity she has been given throughout her high school career, but Bostic said every year is a new and enlightening experience for her.

“It’s so much fun, I’ve been for the past three years and every year I learn something new and I feel like my project upgrades every single time, because I’m able to learn and experience new things with different people from all around the world,” said Bostic.

Bostic said her project is called “Bridging the Gap Using EdTech and Artificial Intelligence”. She said the project is focused around an app that she designed that uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) scanning, Translation Application Programming Interfaces, and the A.I chatbot, ChatGPT.

Sydney Bostic with her project

Utilizing that technology together, Bostic said the app allows users to translate college-level text into various proficiency levels.

“Everybody can use the same materials and learn at the same level at the same time,” she said.

Bostic said she has been invested in working with A.I technology and computer coding for a very long time.

She said she started on a robotics team called FLL, or First Lego Learning when she was little and has since worked her way to a more advanced version of that team known as FTC, First Tech Challenge.

Bostic said she initially became inspired to learn coding from her father who works with computers.

“So, it’s just something that has been integrated into my life for so many years and it has just been what I grew up loving to do,” she said. “I’ve continued to upgrade my skills as I’ve grown up.”

She said the project took a little over 800 hours to complete after beginning it in May of last year and just finishing it up in January.

Bostic said her parents have been a main inspiration for her to continue the project despite how great of a challenge it posed.

“They’ve always encouraged me to keep going even if it has been a really long process and sometimes I’ve been really tired, but they have been saying ‘keep going, you’ve got this, this is your passion, if you keep working you will always end up being successful.”

Middle school students in Monday’s science fair could qualify for the Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge and the Lemelson Early Inventor Prize.

WVDE Director of Pre K-12 Academic Support Erika Klose said approximately 289 students were competing in the science fair and there were a total of 213 group and individual projects ranging from technology, engineering, and mathematics on display.

Klose said what’s impressive is that students utilized the whole scientific process to complete their projects.

“They’ve gone through that whole process of asking a question and coming up with a hypothesis and doing background research, and they’ve gone through some sort of sort of experimental process,” she said. “If they’re in elementary school it looks really different than our high school students, but they’ve all gone through that research process.”

Klose said judging got underway Monday morning and would be taking place throughout the day as each student had a specific judging session. She said there were 12 categories of judging at the elementary and middle school levels and 22 at the high school level.

She said just within the branch of science, students were covering a wide array of topics pertaining to chemistry, bio-chemistry, physics, astronomy, astrophysics and more. Klose said some of the high school students had even conducted research with college professors, and they were really advanced.

“They have some pretty amazing science and it’s exciting when they get to explain that to our judges, because again, it’s about learning, we get to see just how much learning those students have done,” said Klose.

Klose said students have participated in school fairs, county fairs, and regional fairs to get to the state-level one on Monday.

Various West Virginia educational organizations were also on hand during the fair that had different activities set up for students to do while they waited on judging. Some of those included STEAM TAC at WVU, WVU Engineering, and the Clay Center of the Arts and Sciences.

The results were expected to be available by the end of the fair at 5:30.