Science Fairs | Supporting local, state and international science and engineering fairs

SPIE supports local, state and international science and engineering fairs by providing several Special Awards in Optics and Photonics. Volunteer judges review projects displayed at science fairs and select best projects where students apply optics or photonics related technology to their project.

The Society has awarded over $180,000 in cash awards since 2006 to 877 talented students from elementary through high school.

SPIE volunteers are welcome to judge optics or photonics related projects at science fairs. If you know of a science fair coming up in your area that we should be a part of, contact Ms. Pascale Barnett, Education Services Coordinator, pascale@spie.org.

In 2017 SPIE awarded cash prizes totaling over $16,000 to 83 talented students from elementary through high school.

Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

Los Angeles, California(14-19 May 2017)

SPIE Member Volunteers: John Tamkin (Lead), Bartosz Bornik, Pramod Butte, Pangyu Ten


Nicky Wojtania (First Place), Plano West Senior High School (United States)
Project: Cellulose Nanocrystals for Security Applications: Embedding Non-Optical Signatures Provided by Nanoparticles into Cellular Nano


Valerio Pagliarino (Second Place), I.I.S. Nicola Pellati (Italy)
Project: LaserWAN - Laser Broadband Internet Connections


Dominic Catanzaro (Third Place), Cathedral Catholic High School (United States)
Project: Quick Aligning Telescopes


Gareth Reid (Fourth Place), Grosvenor Grammar School (Ireland)
Project: A low cost, digital optical device supporting education in developing countries


California State Science Fair

Los Angeles, California (25 April 2017)

SPIE Volunteer Judges: Pamela Blake, Janaka Ranasinghesagara

Senior Division:

Shalin Shah (First Place), Orange County
Project: Lumos: Automated Smartphone-based Opthtalmic Screening for Glaucoma using Computer Vision and Deep Learning Algorithms through Low-cost and non-Mydriatic Retinal Fundus Imaging


Dominic Catanzaro (Second Place), San Diego County
Project: Quick Aligning Telescopes


Shashank and Shishir Dholakia (Third Place), Santa Clara County
Project: Searching for Exoplanets: A Novel K2-Based Study of the Effects of Open Cluster Characteristics on Exoplanet Abundance


Junior Division:

Ian Weiss (First Place), Orange County
Project: Our Roads, a Large Thermoelectric Generator!


Matthew Brawders (Second Place), Ventura County
Project: Automating Cross Polarized Lenses to Control Lux Levels Received by a Sensor


Ty Koebler (Third Place), Santa Cruz County
Project: A Driver's Risk of UV Exposure


Alabama Science and Engineering Fair

Huntsville, Alabama (7 April 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Tommy Cantey, H. Philip Stahl

Senior Division:

Sophie Guo (First Place), James Clemens High School
Project: Gold Nanodisk Plasmonic Biochemical Sensor for Food Safety Monitoring


Tucker Honeycutt (Second Place), Covenant Christian Academy
Project: Astonomical Image Processing


Catherine Blevins (Third Place), Decatur Presbyterian Church School
Project: Interpreting Light: Exploring the Emission Spectrum


Junior Division:

Hannah Patterson (First Place), Clark Shaw Magnet Middle School
Project: Algebraic Hot Spots


Andrew Crocker (Second Place), Rainbow Elementary School
Project: Stealthy Shapes


Javon Jennings (Third Place), Key Destiny Academy
Project: Solar Revolution: Using the Sun for a More Efficient Solar Cooker


Colorado Science and Engineering Fair

Fort Collins, Colorado (7 April 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Frank Melsheimer, Robert Philbrick, Jesse Wilson

Senior Division:


Molly Nehring (First Place), Monte Vista High School
Project: Dancing with the Stars: Simulating Multi-Star Solar Systems and the Probability of Planetary Ejection


Drake Ludgate and Nathaniel Miner (Second Place), Brush High School
Project: Black Carbon Detection


Karry Pileggi (Third Place)
Project: The Effects of Auxin with External Factors on Root Growth


Junior Division:

Julie Warnock (First Place), Poudre Global Academy
Project: Habitats Most Effected by Light Pollution


Anna Dery (Second Place), Holy Family Catholic School
Project: Distance to the Stars


Kylie Walters (Third Place), The Classical Academy
Project: The Blind Side


Washington State Science and Engineering Fair

Bremerton, Washington (1 April 2017)


Adeline and Claire Hiller (First Place), Newport High School
Project: Visual Hearing Aid


Angeline Cartwright and Elizabeth Jurgensen (Second Place), Mountlake Terrace High School
Team Project: Cost Efficient Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells


D. Abonza (Third Place)


Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (31 March 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judge: Adree Khondker

Laura Legzdins (First Place), Montclair Public School
Project: A Solar Solution: The SunLight Purifier


Sabrina Stojanovic (Second Place), Winona Public School
Project: Using X-Ray Data to Analyze Supernovas


Alex Flannery and Joseph Smith (Second Place), Kings Christian Collegiate
Project: SPF Testing of Commercial and Natural Sunscreens


Minnesota State Science and Engineering Fair

Minneapolis, Minnesota (25 March 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Michael Maurer

Senior Division:

Jiaheng He and Sung Wan Huh (First Place), Breck School
Team Project: From Takeout Box to Organic Laser: Transforming the Industry by Engineering a Transparent Laser


Abigail Banks-Hehenberger (Second Place), Stillwater Area High School
Project: Spectroscopic Analysis of Lightbulb Components


Braxton Kukulka and Connor Braxton (Third Place), Burnsville High School
Team Project: Increasing the Efficiency of a Photo-volatile System with Calcium Chloride Hexahydrate Based Passive Cooling System

Junior Division:

Nick Wiest (First Place), Friedell Middle School
Project: Hydrogen Gas in the Visible Spectrum


Keegan Bersie-Mize (Second Place), St Thomas Moore Catholic School
Project: Energy Required to Light Different Colors of LEDs


Helen Francis and Karja Maier (Third Place)
Project: Woah, That’s Intense


North Carolina Science and Engineering Fair

Raleigh, North Carolina (25 March 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Russell Philbrick, Paul Quayle, Peter Sotory

Senior Division:

Giovanni Budi and Andrea Lamas-Nino (First Place), Isaac M. Bear High School
Team Project: Solar-Powered Optics: Insight into a Renewable Energy Resource


Daniel Haller, Ashwin Kulshrestha and Jainith Patel (Second Place), Marvin Ridge High School
Team Project: Mathematical Characterization of Improved Efficiency of Solar Energy Collection Based on Quantum Biology


Andrew Chun (Third Place), William G. Enloe High School
Project: An Optimal Fiber Optics Solution for Potentially Detecting Earth-Like Planets around Nearby Stars

Junior Division:

Varsha Venkatapathy (First Place), Mills Park Middle School
Project: Measuring Light Pollution of our Night Sky using a Digital Camera


Carson Campbell (Second Place), Northview IB School
Project:What Variables Affect Solar Panel Output?


Taylor Geist (Third Place), Southlake Christian Academy
Project:Solar Circuits


Orange County Science and Engineering Fair

Los Angeles, California (23 March 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Pamela Blake, Longxia Li, Janaka Ranasinghesagara

Senior Division:

Ainesh Arumugam (First Place)
Project: A Novel Smart Controller for Irrigation and Fertilization to Minimize the Impacts of Drought and Climate Change using Image Processing, Pattern Recognition, Soil Moisture and Weather Data Patent Pending


Shalin Shah (Second Place), Tesoro High School
Project: Lumos: Automated Smartphone-based Opthtalmic Screening for Glaucoma using Computer Vision and Deep Learning Algorithms through Low-cost and non-Mydriatic Retinal Fundus Imaging


Rachel Chae (Third Place), Woodbridge High School
Project: The Ultraviolet-Absorbing Properties of Optical Tissue Phantoms Based on Different Concentrations of Titanium(IV) Oxide


Junior Division:

Sana Hamid (First Place)
Project: Light Snack


Ian Weiss (Second Place)
Project: Our Roads, a Large Thermoelectric Generator


Paige Chung (Third Place), Davis Magnet Elementary
Project: What Color Would I Wear?


North Alabama Regional Science and Engineering Fair

Huntsville, Alabama (23 March 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Tommy Cantey and H. Philip Stahl

Sophie Guo (First Place), James Clemens High School
Project: Fiber Optic Nanoplasmonic Biosensor for Food Safety Monitoring



Therese Breithaupt (Second Place), St. John Paul II Catholic High School
Project: A Helping Hand



Tucker Honeycutt (Third Place), Covenant Christian Academy
Project: Astronomical Image Processing


Chicago Public Schools Student Science Fair

Chicago, Illinois (23 March 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judge: George Magerl


Joseph Palomares (First Place), Amundsen High School
Project: Comparing UV Light vs. Chlorine Sterilization


Sheldon Parson-Moore (Second Place), Kellogg School
Project: Cell Phone Spectrophotometer


Alan Quintana (Third Place), Goode High School
Project: Angled Solar Energy


South Suburban Student Science Fair

Chicago, Illinois (21 March 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judge: George Magerl

Alex Patel (First Place), Metea Valley High School
Project: Non-Electric Helio Tracking Solar Panel


Siva Nalabothy (Second Place), Clifford Crone Middle School
Project: A Bright Future for Solar Energy


Western District 5 Science Day

Akron, Ohio (18 March 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Oleg Laventrovich, Marina Laventrovich, Qi-Huo Wei, Vivek K. Nagarajan

Senior Division:

Grace ElHindi (First Place), Beaumont School
Project: Photovoltaics, Futuristic Solution Operating Temperature of Photovoltaic Panel & its Impact on Voltage


Meijin Li (Second Place), St. Vincent-St. Mary High School
Project: ZnO as Buffer Layer in Polymer Solar Cells

Batuhan Aslan (Third Place), Horizon Science Academy Cleveland High School
Project: Self-Powered Solar Panel that Follows the Sun

Junior Division:

Ryan Anthony (First Place), Academy of St. Adalbert
Project: The Effect of Concentration and the Maillard Reaction on the Optical Activity of Fructose, Glucose, and Sucrose


Shruthi-Ravichandran (Second Place), Birchwood School of Hawken
Project: Do Coronal Mass Ejections Correlate with Solar Sunspot Cycle?


Adam Khan (Third Place), Walls Elementary School
Project: The Interaction of Light and Liquid Crystals


Southwest Ohio District Science and Engineering Expo

Cincinnati, Ohio (11 March 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judge: Robert Trusty

Maanasa Mendu (First Place), William Mason High School
Project: Developing a Novel Aeroelastic Flutter Based Piezoelectric Energy Harvester


Charlotte Adams (Second Place), Walnut Hills High School
Project: Reflected Ultraviolet Radiation Exposure in Athletes


Alex Kemper (Third Place)

Badger State Science and Engineering Fair

Milwaukee, Wisconsin (11 March 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judge: Michael Pinkert

Katherine Cao, William Hu, Alice Wu (First Place)
Project: Nanotopographical Control of Dental Pullp Stem Cell Fate using Phase-Segragated PLA/PS Thin Films


Amulya Suresh (Second Place), James Madison Memorial High School
Project: Inhibition of Neutrophil Chemotaxis


Nabeel Quryshi (Third Place), University School of Milwaukee
Project: Crucial Role of Telomerase Activity in Mitigation of Chemotherapeutic/Cardiovascular Disease Induced Reactive Oxygen Species Mediated Oxidative Stress and Reconstitution of Microvascular (Endothelial) Function


Northeastern Ohio Science and Engineering Fair

Cleveland, Ohio (7 March 2017)

Helena Costantini (First Place), Hawken High School
Project: Evaluation of Low-Intensity Ultraviolet-C Radiation for Decontamination of Stethescopes and Glucometers


Ava Fornara (Second Place), Beaumont School
Project: Let There be Light: Optical Lenses and UV Protection


Celine Najm (Third Place)
Project: Compound Microscopes: Could there be a cheap, portable, and strong alternative?


North Suburban Student Science Fair

Chicago, Illinois (5 March 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judge: George Magerl

Abhi Shah (First Place), Lincoln Hall Middle School
Project: The Effects of Ultraviolet Light on E. Coli Growth


Matthew Carr (Second Place), Northbrook Junior High
Project: Dark Eyes vs. Light Eyes


Seminole County Regional Science and Engineering Fair

Sanford, Florida (13 February 2017)
SPIE Volunteer Judges: Gerald Holst and Carl King

Aidan Ryan (First Place), Hagerty High School
Project: Computer Vision as a Flight Stabilization for Autonomous UAVs


Devshri Doshi and Shreya Srikanth (Second Place), Seminole High School
Team Project: Wat-er we doing to the sea: Measuring dissolved oxygen levels and dissolved carbon dioxide levels in saltwater beaches


Kirthika Subrmanian (Third Place), Sanford Middle School
Project: The light that drives you