Friday, February 28, 2014

Science Fair!

     Do you love science?  I do.  I just finished a round of science fairs in New Mexico.  There was a county fair, a regional fair, and then on to the state fair.  Woo-hoo!  It was fun!
     I cannot help you decide what to do for a science fair project, you have to find your own passion.  You might ask a teacher, consult a book, or surf the web for some ideas.  Take your pick.  What I can help you with is how to present confidently, despite having a hearing loss, with some suggestions.  Whatever project you decide to do, you should be interested in the topic, learn something new, and have fun!
     First things first.  Make the science fair organizer aware of what you need and why you need it ahead of time.  I send a copy of the list below with a short explanation that I am deaf in high frequencies to the organizer.  Many of the accommodations needed for science fairs are the same things you need in school.  It might help to send a copy of your IEP or 504 Plan and highlight what you really need if there are any questions.
     This is what I ask for:
  • Positioning the board in a corner, or at least along the perimeter of the space.  (This reduces background noise.)
  • Having the judges or anyone else speak clearly and face to face.  (This helps with for lipreading.)
  • Making sure you are aware that a judge is speaking to you.  (As it will be very loud in the space, I may turn off my hearing aid to cope with noise levels, but if judges tap me on the shoulder before asking questions, that'll be my cue to turn my hearing aids back on.)
  • Explaining in person any announcements that are made over a loud speaker, i.e. where are the rest rooms, water fountain, break time, etc...  (No one hears loud speaker announcements very well!)
  • Rephrasing a question.  (If you don't understand the words, the judge speaking louder won't help if the word is too similar to something else or has high frequency sounds.)
  • Writing a question if all else fails.  (You should keep some 3 x 5 cards at the ready for this purpose.)
  • Having the microphone at ready for the judges to use.  (I take my FM microphone system to use if needed.)
  • Making the judges aware that pronunciation of high frequency sounds is not 100%.   (Since part of the judging is based on oral delivery, they need to be aware that specific sounds are frequently left off in speech, so that they will not score negatively for pronunciation.  It's not that I don't know the words, I just don't hear them normally, and therefore my pronunciation is off.)
     An example of problems I have encountered is words that sound similar and are reasonable in the context of my science fair projects.  I have mixed up "eclipse" vs. "ellipse," both of which sound and lipread the same to me.  Other examples: "Newton's third law" and "nuclear thermal energy."  Most recently, I was asked a question concerning the "mass" of an object, and I thought the interviewer asked about the "math" of an object.  If I have a doubt about the word, I usually restate the question I heard, or ask the judge to repeat, or rephrase, the question.
     Above all, your hearing loss should not affect you ability to do science fairs.  In fact, you could even do a project that relates to hearing, with inspiration from your own life.  Judges love to know that you are doing something with passion!
     Best of luck on your project, and have fun!