After arriving at the hotel in L.A., finalists were given the opportunity to officially meet with each other for the first time at the Pin Exchange Party. As a finalist from Maryland, my pins had the Maryland flag on them, and I was able to trade pins with 100s of finalists from countries like China, Japan, Mexico, Germany, Russia, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Additionally, the United States was heavily represented as nearly all 50 states had finalists from local and regional fairs. I met people from Texas, Ohio, California, Virginia, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Connecticut, Hawaii, and numerous other states.
This day was designated for set-up and inspection of the finalists' boards. The judging halls were open at 9am for finalists. All stations and boards were inspected by an ISEF staff member. Once I had passed my inspection and made sure that everything was in perfect condition, I was able to explore the city of L.A. with Darius Johnson, another finalist, and our mentors. We drove through the mountains and up into the valley, saw the Hollywood sign, explored Beverly Hills, and visited the Getty Museum which is filled with some of the best art pieces in the world. That night, a party was hosted for the finalists in front of the Staples Center at Club Nokia. This was the time for finalists to have a little fun because the next day was Grand Prize and Special Awards judging day.
The day officially began at 8am and ended at 5pm. All judges evaluated projects within their area of expertise. I had approximately 8-12 judges, of which 6 were scheduled to judge my project. The rest were either special awards judges or just spectator judges on break. After judging was over, ISEF rented out Universal Studios for all finalists, student observers, and mentors to go and celebrate the long and stressful day of presenting. We were at Universal from 7pm to 12pm.
This day was open to the public, so schools and science fair enthusiasts from the L.A. area came and listened to our presentations. This was also an opportunity for the media to come and interview the finalists and know more about their projects. I had the honor of being interviewed by a local news crew and an Innovations blogger. It was a more relaxed day. That night was the special awards ceremony. Many finalists received awards from organizations, universities, and research groups.
Day Five:This day was the grand prize award and closing ceremony. I won a fourth place award in the category of Environmental Management with my project Dispersing Oil Slicks: Impact of Droplets on a Floating Oil Layer!