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Connecticut Students Work Together To Meet The Expo Fest Challenge

The view of Expo Fest in 2018.
The view of Expo Fest in 2018.

When people think of middle and high school kids presenting sophisticated technology or engineering projects, they usually think of a science fair. But according to Matt Mervis, Expo Fest looks more like a Silicon Valley start-up competition.

“You walk around at the 60 or so trade show-style booths and you see prototypes and websites and apps and computer science programs. And kids fabricate full models, if not totally complete working solutions for their innovations,” he said.

Mervis is the director of Skills21 based in Litchfield, which presents Expo Fest each year. This year’s event takes place Friday and Saturday in Wallingford.

Hundreds of middle and high school students from around Connecticut are expected to attend. They’ll present science, technology, and engineering projects created in response to a given challenge.  They work in teams, at first with the guidance of a teacher. But gradually, teachers step back.  

Some of the project results are remarkable, said Mervis. The top computer science winner last year was created by students at New Haven’s Engineering and Science University Magnet School.

“They designed an incubator for babies that were born with a neonatal opioid addiction. They wanted to provide an incubator that would really support their development in terms of the temperature,” he said. “So there was hardware, software programming -- full blown prototyping.  It's really one of the coolest projects we’ve seen over the years.”

Students will pitch business ideas to judges in a Shark Tank-like environment. They’ll also showcase their films. This year’s film categories include how-to, comedy, animation, and news.

Expo Fest takes place at the Toyota Oakdale Theater.  For more info, visit www.skills21.org.

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