UNM STEM-H (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Healthcare) Center for Outreach, Research, and Education hosts the Southwest Region Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) competition on Friday and Saturday, March 13 & 14. Students from around New Mexico, southern Colorado, and southwest Texas (El Paso area) in grades 9-12 are eligible to apply for the opportunity to compete for scholarship prizes and a chance to move forward to the national JSHS competition, held this April in Washington D.C.

This year’s regional JSHS competition, which will be held at UNM’s Student Union Building on Friday, March 13 and at the UNM Health Sciences Center Domenici Health Sciences Education Building on Saturday, March 14, consists of each student giving an oral presentation accompanied by PowerPoint slides to a judging panel about a research project they’ve completed earlier in the year; for instance, students discuss their research for a science fair project they completed for their school fair, or a research project they completed in their spare time or with a mentor.   Students are also required to submit a research abstract, research plan, and technical paper prior to competition.

UNM STEM-H Center Director Karen Kinsman said that the competition provides yet another important opportunity for students to gain real-world experience in STEM-H subjects, as well as the opportunity to earn monetary awards and compete at higher levels. “JSHS attracts high school student researchers who have done some truly amazing, incredibly high caliber work,” Kinsman said. “It’s always a great honor to be able to support the work these students are doing, provide a competition venue that gives them a chance to win some great awards, and offer the possibility of moving on to a national level of competition where the stakes are even higher.”

To register, students were required to submit their project descriptions, along with their materials and methods, for review.  Nearly 30 students were selected to move forward and present their research projects to the panel of judges at the onsite portion of the competition. The first place winner will receive a $2,000 scholarship award; the second place winner will receive a $1,500 scholarship award; the third place winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship award.  Additionally, the top five students from the regional competition will be invited to compete in the National JSHS competition.

UNM STEM-H Center Program Specialist Erin Garcia, who manages the regional Southwest JSHS competition, stated that the event also provides the unique opportunity for student researchers to connect with the area’s top STEM-H professionals.  “I was inspired to bring this competition to our department in six years ago because it is a great opportunity for high school students to win scholarship money and a trip to the national competition,” Garcia said. “It’s also the perfect time for them to meet other students and professionals from around the region who are excited about STEM-H research, and share their ideas.”

The agenda also includes tours of UNM School of Engineering labs and facilities as well as time for students to network with young STEM-H professionals during the event and a Keynote Address by Kenneth Armijo, senior member of Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories and an alumnus of the Central NM STEM Research Challenge (aka…science fair) also managed by the UNM STEM-H Center. 

The JSHS competition promotes original research and experimentation by high school students in the subject areas of science, engineering, and mathematics, and publicly recognizes students for outstanding achievement. According to the JSHS web site, the goal of the competition is to “connect students, their teachers, and research professionals, and widen the pool of trained talent prepared to conduct research and development vital to our nation.”

The regional and national level symposiums are endorsed by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and combined reach more than 10,000 high school students and teachers throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Department of Defense Schools of Europe and the Pacific Rim.

The UNM STEM-H Center also annually hosts the Central New Mexico Science Olympiad competition (MS & HS) and the Central New Mexico STEM Research Challenge (4th -12th Grades). For more information about the Southwest Region JSHS competition, contact the STEM-H Center for Outreach, Research and Education at 505-277-4916 or scifair@unm.edu.