By Lucy Liu and Michelle Xu

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Students from all over Orange County participated in the annual Orange County Science Engineering Fair which held its award ceremony on April 17, 2016 at the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa.

Students displayed projects ranging from Product Testing to Botany and were eligible to win Category Awards and Special Awards from OCSEF. In addition, Orange County will be sending four high school students to the finals in Phoenix, Ariz. in May to compete for Orange County in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF). Not only that, many ingenious projects were awarded at the ceremony for their scientific contributions to the STEM field.

The OCSEF Intel ISEF Qualifying Competition was held on March 19 at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center. Here, 33 OCSEF semifinalists competed for one of the four positions as an Intel ISEF finalist.

In the end, the four Intel ISEF Finalists include juniors Charles Noye, Anna Lou and Varun Mandi and sophomore Michelle Xu. At the awards ceremony, these students were awarded certificates by Dana Rohrabacher, the U.S. Representative for California’s 48th district and all expense-paid trips to Phoenix.

“My project is in the field of biochemistry and it is something that I am really interested in,” sophomore Michelle Xu said. “It took a lot of hard work, but it was all worth it in the end.”

At the start of the award ceremony, there were also guest speakers who spoke about the importance of science research and STEM. Elaine Schwartz from the Schmid College of Science at Chapman University gave a brief speech about the importance of STEM and research.

OCSEF board member Shannon Bunch then presented the 2016 Category Awards for each of the 21 different categories. Awards included first, second and third place medals, honorable mentions and cash prizes.

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After the category awards, Special Awards were presented. Special Awards were given to students from the different OCSEF sponsors. A student receives a Special Award when he or she has captured the attention of the corporations that support OCSEF.

Villa Park High School junior, Charles Noyes, eventually took home the Senior Sweepstakes Award for the second year in a row. Additionally, his school won the School Award.

As the award ceremony drew to an end, the science fair winners went back to their science exhibits and gave brief presentations about their projects to the spectators visiting the fair.