Are your kids signed up for Mich.’s virtual science fair? Compete from home (for free) and win prizes! Deadline is Oct. 4

Foam boards strewn with construction paper and glue may be a thing of the past when it comes to science fair projects.

And kids are now competing against classmates statewide, without the drive time, too.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Community Health. A video still of a first-place winner in the K-4 age group, Elijah Flechter, from the spring virtual science fair. You can check out his video at

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Community Health. A video still of a first-place winner in the K-4 age group, Elijah Flechter, from the spring virtual science fair. You can check out his video at

In its second year, the Michigan Department of Community Health’s Explore Lab Science Program brings students a virtual science fair.

Kindergarteners to high schoolers are participating as the program began accepting project submissions on Sept. 4 and will close on Friday, Oct. 4 at 5 p.m.

“We had a lot of fun,” said Matt Flechter, father of last year’s first-place winner in the kindergarten through fourth grade age group. “It was a different way to play and learn about science.”

Students are prompted to explore a topic, carry out an experiment, demonstration or create a model and send in a video of the process.

“What I truly love about the virtual science fair is that it allows students across the state to participate,” said Ninah Sasy, of the MDCH, who oversees the Explore Lab Science Program and virtual science fair.

Since her team cannot make it to every school science fair across Michigan, taking a virtual approach “allows us to bridge that gap,” she said.  “Last spring we had a number of wonderful entries and we enjoyed watching the students discuss their projects.”

The first two virtual fairs were held in the fall and spring and “they were very wildly successful,” said Angela Minicuci, public information officer for the MDCH. So the program will do the same this year.

“We felt it was really important to introduce students and children at an early age to laboratory science that kind of piques their curiosity ,” Minicuci said.

While the fair stimulates and promotes scientific methodology and reasoning, the program also has its eyes on a long-term goal.

The group aims to boost the number of future college grads interested in the field to quell a shortage of science-based new hires.

“We’re really seeing a big shift toward technology—and a lot of other fields—that youth are really gravitating toward, but we want to definitely keep their interest in science,” she said.

Specific careers are not targeted, but rather all science jobs will be in high demand in the future, Minicuci says.

“Science is something that will continually be around, so the younger that we can get them interested, the more likely that they will potentially fill those shortages when they are entering the workforce,” she said.

The fair is part of the Explore Lab Science Program that has a team of college students who develop lessons and demonstrations for kids, traveling to different classrooms throughout the year.

“We are able to share our love of science with students,” Sasy said.

One of her memorable classroom visits was a lesson where fifth graders had to solve the case of the kidnapped cookies by analyzing clues left at the crime scene through soil analysis and microscopes.

“It was so wonderful to see (their) excitement and they really grasped the basic concepts,” she said.

It is free to compete, but don’t forget to register for the virtual science fair online at

“We want children to be taking an interest in any kind of experiment, a research study—anything related to science that they want to explore—we welcome it,” Minicuci said.

The top three participants in each age group will receive medals and certificates for their projects. The age groups are broken into Lab Kids, or kindergarten through fourth graders; Atomic Kids, fifth through eighth graders and Lab Teens, another name for the high school participants.

Students can submit a project individually or in a team, with a group of four or less members.

This year, Elijah and his family are planning to conduct a sequel to the ‘Can worms see light?’ experiment that landed him in first place for the Lab Kids age group last year.

When asked how his hypothesis faired, Matt says Elijah responded with ‘I don’t know, it could be something else, we’re going to need more investigation.’

“So he had a lot of fun doing it,” Flechter said.

To learn more about the MDCH Explore Lab Science Program or the virtual science fair this fall, visit If you plan to submit a science project, be sure to share your video with us!

Virtual science fair sidebar-infographic




About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at

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