/ - Science Fair Foundation British Columbia

Taiwan International Science Fair - Student Perspective

March | 2020

On Saturday, February 1st, two sisters and their chaperone boarded a plane to Taipei, Taiwan, to represent Team BC and Team Canada at the 2020 Taiwan International Science Fair (TISF), held on February 3rd to February 7th, 2020.

Claire Scrimini and Vanessa Scrimini, Grade 11 students at Burnaby North Secondary, brought their project "Algae Meets Fungi: Microalgae-Fungi Co-Pelletization for Biofuel Production" to the competition in Taipei. They were chaperoned by Denise O'Connor, a retired teacher and School Principal from SD 74.

Their project sought to determine the most effective microalgae-fungi combination for biofuel production, to create an effective and renewable solution to the climate change crisis. Claire and Vanessa had previously won the Gold Medal in their category at the 2019 Canada-Wide Science Fair in Fredericton, New Brunswick, for their project.

However, their excitement for the fair was overshadowed by the growing health concerns coming out of China: the novel coronavirus had just flared up in the news in the weeks leading up to the fair, and many emails were exchanged regarding health precautions and contingency plans in place at the TISF.

Claire, Vanessa, and Denise shared their TISF 2020 experience with us:

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This year was very different regarding health and medication. During the time the fair took place, leading up to it and following it, the coronavirus was a large concern to the public. We were instructed to pack earloop face masks to prevent the disease from spreading or reaching us and were told we must attempt to wear them as much as possible during the fair. As well, we packed lots of hand sanitizer and wipes to ensure cleanliness and safety. Furthermore, we brought medication like gravol, advil, tums and midol were all used by the various members of Team Canada. My partner and I were able to remove our masks for judging, however other members of Team Canada were instructed to keep theirs on depending on the wishes of the judges.

After entering every destination, our temperature was also consistently checked and our hands were sanitized. Hand sanitizer stations were everywhere. Sometimes a person stood in a doorway with a bottle and sprayed our hands before we could enter. In addition, our temperature was taken every time we entered the Science Centre, our hotel, and the restaurant.

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Saturday, February 1st:

We flew with China Air which had spacious seating and friendly service. We arrived early in the morning of February 2nd Taiwan time. A shuttle bus from TISF was sent to pick us up and take us to our hotel. Once there, we checked into our rooms and decided to explore Taiwan and immediately went hunting for bubble tea.

Sunday, February 2nd:

Upon arrival at the hotel, we immediately went out to explore. We grabbed an early breakfast at this small market two blocks away. Next, we took the MRT and hiked Elephant Mountain which was beautiful. Following this, we took the MRT to Taipei 101 to explore the mall. We tried many different kinds of food and enjoyed all of them!

Monday, February 3rd:

We took the arranged bus to the National Taiwan Science Education Center where the fair was being held for project setup. Next, we painted our national lab coat and selected a team member who would wear it during the Opening Ceremony. After setting up our project, we toured the nearby area before the Opening Dinner. During the dinner, the countries who applied for doing an act during cultural night performed during this time as the usual cultural night was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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At the Opening Dinner, we were served a three-course meal and were entertained with music and interactive magic show. The musicians and magician were students from a Taipei high school. Many important guests were invited to dinner. Just before our dinner was served, Mr. Jordan Reeves, Executive Director of the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei, came over to our table and introduced himself. We learned about the Canadian Trade Office's work in Taiwan.

Tuesday, February 4th:

In the morning, we had the Opening Ceremony where the lab coats were cat-walked on stage. Our lab coat received a lot of applause! We also heard an empowering Meet the Scientist Keynote - Tang Feng (Audrey Tang). It was an interactive powerful presentation where Tang presented his story and answered questions. At a young age Tang was a software designer and participated in school science fairs. Today Tang is an outside the box politician, entrepreneur, software programmer, and sought-after public speaker.

In the afternoon, students participated in various Challenge activities at the Science Centre while the chaperones, along with local Taipei high school teachers, completed a hands-on design challenge and toured a Women in Science exhibit. After the activities at the Science Centre, Team Canada and our student ambassadors decided to tour the Raohe Night Market.

Wednesday, February 5th:

Judging day! The presentations were very different than at the CWSF. Participants received about four judges at once and thus presented their project once in total. You were given 10 minutes exactly to present (they timed it) and exactly 5 minutes for questions (also timed). The judges asked tough questions and did their best to corner you. We finished our judging very early on and had the remainder of the time to check out the projects and meet other international students.
After judging, the TISF organized a tour to the Shifen Waterfalls which were beautiful.

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From there we went to Shifen Old Town for the flying of lanterns. Each country was provided with a large lantern on which to write well-wishes. The tradition is to release the lanterns into the air to deliver the wishes. Set up on rail-road tracks, (yes, RR tracks! a loud whistle blew when a train was approached and everyone cleared the tracks to let it go by), each delegation released their lantern! It was quite a beautiful site as other travellers also released lanterns.

Thursday, February 6th:

The morning before public viewing, Team Canada and the ambassadors decided to hike up near a temple that had been converted to a hotel. It was beautiful and we met many local hikers. Next we returned to the science center for public viewing and exchanged pins and pencils with the other participants. 

Groups of students from local schools arrived to view the projects. The number of visiting classes was so great that TISF limited how many could enter the hall at once. Everyone who entered went through the Corona Virus protocol, masks, temperature, sanitizer.

A cultural evening had been scheduled where each delegation would host a table to showcase their country/culture, but TISF decided to cancel it because it was open to public and they would have difficulty managing the coronavirus protocol. This left us a free evening. Our student ambassadors along with other students took us to tour Taipei 101 and a night market.

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Friday, February 7th:

The awards ceremony started at 10:00am at a theatre in the Convention Centre not far from Taipei 101. After a number of speeches from special guests, including the Vice- President of Taiwan, awards were presented. Our understanding is that in past years, two parallel fairs are held. One for international students, and one for Taiwan high school. This year, there was one fair and awards were presented accordingly.

Team BC Results from the 2020 Taiwan International Science Fair >

After the awards ceremony, many teams returned home. We decided to stay till the 10th to continue exploring. That night, we went to a few different markets and enjoyed some local delicacies.

Extra Days in Taipei:

We grew very close with our team and our student ambassadors. Many of our ambassadors' friends decided to join us all for a basketball game at their high school. We toured the Chiang Kai-shek memorial to see the changing of the guards and the palace museum which is free for students under 18. As well, we went up the Maokong Gondola which was beautiful but quite cold at the top! We also went around the Ximending area which we called  “the times square of Taipei”. There was loud music, lots of food and many stores that were good for purchasing souvenirs. We also visited Beitou, Zhongzheng park in Xinyi district, then the Keelung city rock formations in Vehlin park before we took our late flight home.

Gifts and Ambassadors

As our cultural night was cancelled and several other countries could not make it, Team Canada had many student ambassadors. We believe we were assigned two originally however, nearing the end of the week we had many more. We brought many gifts to give away to other students and our ambassadors. Our ambassadors were amazing. They took us around even after the fair hours and after the fair ended. They showed us which foods to try and even did many touristy things with us. We ended up giving each ambassador a small maple syrup bottle, pens, pins and some other small Canadian goods. As well, we brought Canadian flagged pencils, maple syrup candies and pins to exchange with the international and national students.

All of the student ambassadors loved Canada and at one point we had about 7 of them taking us around. Shout-out to our ambassadors Allen, Avi, Jim, William and all the other ambassadors who helped make this trip so memorable!



Recommendations

The TISF is such an amazing experience! I highly recommend future students to go to as many markets as possible and trying interesting foods you never thought you would. As well, trying foods that are local to Taiwan such as bubble tea. Furthermore, enjoying a few hiking excursions allowed us to meet locals while enjoying the beautiful scenery which was a very unique and enriching experience.

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Team BC Results from the 2020 Taiwan International Science Fair >

Team BC's application process for the Taiwan International Science Fair >