2019 ISEF Wednesday

Report by Saira Munshani

In order to prepare for the busiest and scariest day, we woke at 6am, the earliest yet. Instead of trying to eat downstairs in the hectic hotel restaurant (which would be filled with other ISEF kids trying to eat before judging), we got room service. Most of us opted for a light breakfast – We were all so worried before the big day! After breakfast, we all met at the elevators where we took some group pictures. Then Ms. Frattalone gave us a little “emergency kit” with everything we may need during the judging period, including tissues, tic-tacs, chapstick, and more. It was so helpful, especially while in between presentations. When we arrived at the convention center, the line was already so long. We had gotten there almost twenty minutes before judging was to begin, but we were stuck for a while before we got in. The energy in the air was so tense, and we could feel that everybody was nervous. Once we were on the judging floor, everyone got a schedule of what grand award judges would come when. However, before the grand award judges came, we had special award judges. These awards were more specific to a particular organization, and representatives would interview students that filled the criteria. They ranged from NASA, to the US Navy, to GoDaddy (the company!). After the special award judges came the most anticipated ones: grand award judges. The grand award judges came on schedule for some people, but for others it was a bit more sporadic, especially if the person had many judges assigned to their project. There was a lot of variance within the personality of the judges, and some required you to think quickly in order to keep up with their many questions, which was stressful at times. After the morning period of judging, we went to have lunch at a nearby restaurant. It was interesting to talk over our experiences so far, and see what everyone was thinking.

After a great lunch where we could release some tension, we walked back over to the center and completed the afternoon of judging. Then as we exited the room, all of the adults outside were clapping and cheering! It felt sort of weird, but it was fun to see all of the support that the ISEF competitors have. Since everyone was pretty exhausted after the judging, we all took time to rest before the student mixer. At the mixer, there were tons of activities, including arcade games, karaoke, and an escape room truck! We were also given dinner, and around seven, a DJ showed up, and everyone was dancing inside the main hall. It was super fun to make new friends in a more relaxed setting, because everyone was less tense after finally finishing the most nerve wracking part of the week. We headed back a few hours later, and went to bed – tired and happy. It has been so great being able to be on this trip with CSEF, and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to do so. I am looking forward to the final few days, as this journey has been an exciting learning experience.

Thank you!