2024 U Science Fair Youth Compete Internationally

2024 U Science Fair Youth Compete Internationally

June 26, 2024

It’s never too early to get youth involved in science and technology, and for the past 70 years, the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) has been doing exactly that.


Sierra Sun

As stated by Barb Baker, the host of this year's global event, “Each year, millions of students around the world participate in a global network of local, regional, and national science fairs, where they are encouraged to explore their passion for scientific inquiry.” These pre-college students arrive from over 75 countries, regions, and territories to compete in various STEM fields, from animal sciences to systems software, behavioral and social sciences to physics and astronomy. Such a broad scope ensures that no matter where a student’s interest may lie, they have an avenue to ambitiously pursue their goals.

Sahil Shah

The University of Utah Science and Engineering Fair (USEF) has been preparing and sending students to this prestigious event since 2003, and this year was no exception. Students from five school districts as well as charter, private and parochial schools participated at USEF March 4-7 at the Crocker Science Center where the fair had 470 projects and 592 students. Five high school students were chosen to compete on the global stage in Los Angeles at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) May 11-17, granting these students the valuable experience of viewing and presenting their work to people across the world. In addition, five more high school students were selected to compete at the Genius Olympiad in Rochester, NY June 10-15. We celebrate that their hard work has been rewarded!

Mingchaun Cheng

USEF had three finalists walk away from ISEF with awards. Aadhi Umamageswaran, Sierra Sun, and Sahil Shah all placed 4th within their categories, Aadhi focusing on animal sciences, Sahil on translational medical science, and Sierra on behavioral and social sciences. In addition, Sierra received three special awards totaling $6,500 in cash for her efforts from the American Psychological Association, the National Security Agency Research Directorate and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Aadhi Umamageswara

All five USEF finalists won awards at the Genius Olympiad competition, where projects focus on environmental issues. Arianna Vasquez, Caroline Cook and Angelina Nguyen all received Honorable Mentions and Marina Peng and Krishnam Goel received Silver Awards.



“I am so proud of these students,” says Jody Oostema, USEF’s program director since 2005.  “They have each put a lot of time and hard work into their projects over the past year and it’s wonderful to see their efforts rewarded!”


Aidan Yu

Past USEF winners have gone on to attend institutions such as Princeton University, Harvard University, and our own University of Utah. Some have gotten NASA grants to develop prototype robots for exploration of Jupiter’s moon Europa, others lead biotech companies creating protein therapeutics, and others still have joined the hunt for the ever-elusive dark matter.

The 2025 University of Utah Science and Engineering Fair takes place March 10-14, again, at the Crocker Science Center. Visit the USEF website for more information.




By Michael Jacobsen

USEF 2024

From District Fair to Global Competition


What does it take to earn a spot at an International Science and Engineering Fair? 

The documentary series Science Fair, streaming on Disney + and Hulu, has one answer as it takes viewers on a journey with students around the United States and in Zimbabwe as they compete at their local science fairs, in the hopes of earning an opportunity to compete on a global stage at the Regeneron International Science Fair.

In short, you don’t start at the top. Rather, you follow an eligibility 'roadmap', beginning at your local school and district fairs. Students who advance through these fairs are then invited to participate in the University of Utah Science and Engineering Fair (USEF), an important step along the way to national and international competitions.

USEF is an annual science & engineering competition for students in grades 5-12 and is a reboot of the Salt Lake Valley Science and Engineering Fair now permanently hosted by the U’s College of Science. It’s also the first time since the COVID-19 that the fair will be fully in-person.

2018 Award Winner

Judging at the four-day event takes place on March 5, 6, and 7 at the U’s Crocker Science Center located at 1390 President’s Circle in Salt Lake City. The event culminates in an awards ceremony staged this year at Juan Diego Catholic School in Draper on March 8.

Participation in science events such as USEF stimulates students' interest in science and technology while simultaneously promoting the development of communication, decision-making, evaluation of alternative solutions, and critical thinking.

But you probably already know that, and USEF is pleased to showcase the inquisitive nature and scientific discovery of some of the best and brightest young minds from the Canyons, Granite, Murray, Park City, Salt Lake, and Tooele School Districts as well as the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese and all private, home school and charter schools within these boundaries.

“We are thrilled that the 592 students participating this year from eight school districts will be able to see the amazing science labs in the building,” says Jody Oostema, fair manager. “USEF’s numbers are finally getting back up to ‘normal’ after several years bouncing back from COVID,” she adds.

This year UCEF includes 470 projects and 592 students with 217 elementary division projects, 164 junior division projects, and 89 senior division projects. Additionally, there are 373 individual projects and 93 team projects slated to compete. Parents and family members are invited to view all projects 45 minutes before each judging session begins.

The full schedule can be found at https://usef.utah.edu/fair-details

The event “brings together some of the most inquisitive young minds with working scientists and engineers who serve as judges,” says fair director Brenda Mann, “allowing the students to share the results of their hard work and foster discussion between the students and judges.”

2018 Award Winner

She adds, “As a research scientist and engineer [at Marinda Therapeutics], I am thrilled to see high school students from an increased number of schools participating at USEF this year. The high quality of these projects demonstrates the difficult questions or problems to which the students are looking for answers or trying to solve.”

“I can remember competing at this fair as if it was yesterday,” says Julia St. Andre, a former USEF competitor and science communication student at the U. “Among all the nerves and excitement of the day, what stood out to me the most was the incredible community within the fair. Between judging rounds, I spent the time talking and bonding with my fellow competitors, walking around to see each other’s posters. To this day, I remember how impressed I was by the variety of research and creativity I witnessed and the excitement we all felt at getting to share our work and form connections with students from across the state. USEF was a uniquely impactful experience for me, and I am so grateful for it!”

And that is what the Utah Science and Engineering Fair is really all about: looking for answers or trying to solve difficult questions or problems. Sharing one’s science project with other eager students is both challenging and fun. As for that international science fair documented on film, the senior division winners from USEF will be eligible to compete in the Regeneron ISEF.

As the world's largest pre-college science fair, Regeneron ISEF is held each May where more than 1,800 students from over 65 countries gather to display their independent research. USEF is an affiliated fair and will select five projects this year to travel to compete.

Visit the Regeneron ISEF website to learn more.


Read a re-cap of the Science Fair at KSL-TV.




COS Belonging and Community

Belonging and Community

In the College of Science, we recognize that progress thrives on different perspectives, experiences, and talents. We are dedicated to cultivating an environment where all scientists, mathematicians, and engineers come together to work, learn, and push the boundaries of scientific discovery.  Our student programs build community and provide opportunities for personal growth and professional development, with the goals of enhancing academic success and preparing students for impactful careers.  We create a brighter future for STEM in Utah and beyond.

The Committee on Belonging and Community (CBC) hosts events and promotes practices to increase belonging and community for everyone who learns and works in the College of Science.  The CBC also serves in an advisory role to the Dean of the College of Science, facilitates communication and sharing of information among units and coordination with institutional priorities, and pursues college-level initiatives to improve experiences and opportunities for students, postdocs, faculty, and staff.  CBC members are appointed by the Dean.



To participate in an upcoming event on campus, visit the U-Belong Calendar.


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