Competing in a virtual science fair

By Jim Hsia

One week before the prestigious Synopsys Championship Science Fair at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, aspiring scientists and engineers were informed that the fair would be changed to online. For the middle school competitors from Milpitas Christian School (MCS), this was the time to practice their creative problem-solving skills.

After the county of Santa Clara banned large gatherings, the Synopsys Championship organizers decided it was time to have their first virtual Science Fair. Suddenly all the text, graphics, photos, and videos that would have been shown on a display board or notebook would need to be scanned and uploaded. A panel of judges would now be evaluating the materials and presentations of each student through a video conference.

MCS Participants in the Synopsys Championship

Six eighth graders from Mr. Eric Cho’s science class were accepted into the Synopsys Championship.

  • Bowie C., The Growth of Moss Under Different Growing Conditions
  • Terry H. and William T., Up, Up, and Away: A Quantitative Analysis On The Most Efficient Airfoil Type
  • Justin H., Using A Grating Spectrometer to Study the Effectiveness of Blue Light Blocking Glasses
  • Josephine K., Which Food Wrap Will Delay Food Decay the Longest?
  • Himani M., Bioplastic from Root Vegetables and Its Effect on Tensile Strength, Water Permeability, and Biodegradability

The annual Synopsys Championship showcases middle and high students in the Santa Clara County who will become our future scientists, technology experts, engineers, and mathematicians. MCS students competed against public and prestigious private middle schools from Cupertino, Santa Clara, San Jose, Campbell, and Milpitas.

MCS Winners

Terry H. and William T. jointly received the 2nd Award in the Physical Science and Engineering Category, while Himani M. received a total of six awards in the Physical Science and Engineering category.

  • 1st Award, Physical Science and Engineering Category
  • Nominated to compete in the Broadcom MASTERS, 8th Grade. This national science fair is scheduled for October 2020 in Washington, D.C.
  • Qualified for California Science & Engineering Fair (CSEF). Originally scheduled for April 2020 in Los Angeles, but has been cancelled due to COVID-19 crisis.
  • 2nd Place award and certificate from American Society of Civil Engineers- San Jose Branch
  • 2nd Place award and certificate from ASM International, A Society for Materials, Santa Clara Valley Chapter
  • Middle School award and recognition from Northern California Institute of Food Technologists (NCIFT)

“My project is about making bioplastics from root vegetables,” explained Himani M. “I created bioplastics from three different root vegetables and compared the efficiency of them to determine if they are reasonable alternatives to conventional plastic. Looking at the results of my research, I learned that bioplastics are a good alternative to conventional plastic and are environment friendly. My years at MCS have helped me grow a love for science. My teachers have really supported me and helped me pursue my interests and goals which has helped me to be confident in the projects that I do today.” After high school, Himani plans to pursue an undergraduate degree in engineering.

“I’m very pleased to see our middle school students develop a passion for science and engineering,” commented Eric Cho, Science teacher for MCS. “It’s very gratifying to see that the research and investigation by our students have been recognized by Santa Clara Valley Science & Engineering Fair Association (SCVSEFA) and the Synopsys Silicon Valley Science and Technology Championship this year. Only the top 5% of all participants were invited to the national science fair (Broadcom MASTERS); the top 10% qualified for the California State Science Fair (CSEF).”

For more information about Milpitas Christian School or to arrange a campus tour (in-person or virtual), visit or call (408) 945-6530 x11209.

Local libraries’ stand against global pandemic

By Marc Vicente
May 26, 2020

With shelter-in-place orders being extended, it remains uncertain when organizations will resume normal operations, and businesses and public facilities are finding ways to adapt.

Libraries have undergone perhaps the most drastic of changes during this pandemic season. They house a wide variety of books that circulate through more than one person through checkout. However, because the virus spreads through contact with people and other surfaces, checking out new physical books has been postponed ever since quarantine protocols were initiated to reduce the spread of the virus. In addition, many libraries in the Bay Area have extended the deadline of checked out media so that patrons can return them when the pandemic dies down. Multiple events involving the libraries have also been postponed to maintain the safety of library patrons.

Sometimes, libraries can serve as places for refuge for when disasters occur. Fremont Main Library Division Director Brian Edwards says,“A couple years ago, when we had fires, we had clean air circulating through the library so we had people coming inside for space to breathe and a cool place because they didn’t have that at home. With this virus, we have to close our doors, which is hard for a lot of people and their mental health. This pandemic is difficult for a lot of people at home, with a lot of necessary services closed down. Some people have no access to internet, music or streaming services, so they are waiting for us to reopen soon.”

While a large majority of their physical books remain on shelves, libraries continue to help their communities through their websites, by providing registration for virtual library cards, or eCards that allow free access to their online archive. Some libraries, like the Hayward Public Library, also offered Chromebooks to some people via checkout before they closed down. Hayward Public Library Director of Library Services Jayanti Addleman states that “the transition to digital services was not as difficult as one would expect, since [libraries] were equipped with online services long before the spread of COVID-19.”

In addition to eCards, local libraries promote other services, as well as events hosted by their librarians. Tutoring services for students, moral support lines for various demographics, and Census assistance are some of the services offered by multiple Bay Area libraries. Some offer their own unique events, such as Hayward Public Library’s virtual storytimes for children, and Union City Library’s Twitch streaming service to play games with their patrons.

On top of adapting their current services, libraries currently cooperate with the Center of Disease Control (CDC), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the State of California to continue creating innovative ways to reconfigure their arrangements to decrease the spread of COVID-19 among patrons when they reopen. Since libraries can only distribute their eBooks a finite number of times while under digital rights laws, like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Edwards says that libraries have to constantly update, organize and expand their online databases to maintain and provide more content for patrons to enjoy, especially since the use of eLibraries has skyrocketed in the past two months. Seating and computer layouts among multiple libraries will be rearranged to observe social distancing procedures, with Addleman stating that the Hayward Public Library will start adding plexiglass sneeze guards to their computer stations. Additionally, plans to initiate contactless pickup of books are said to be started around June. However, before libraries open up again to implement such changes, the CDC and IMLS still have yet to discover the best possible courses of action to ensure that everyone can remain safe from the ever-spreading COVID-19 virus.

Hayward Public Library

Digital Lending
Virtual classes/meetups
Census Information
Virtual Storytime
(510) 293-8685

Fremont Main Library

Digital Lending
Virtual classes/meetups
Homeless Services
(510) 745-1400

Milpitas Library

Digital Lending 
Virtual classes/meetups
Census Information
Passport Services
(408) 262-1171

Editor’s Note:
Fremont Main, Castro Valley and San Lorenzo libraries are offering “no contact pickup” services. Items can be requested online, by phone or in-person by filling out a hold request and retrieving the items at a no-contact pickup table. Additional information is available at

or by calling:
Fremont Main: (510) 745-1400
Castro Valley: (510) 667-7900
San Lorenzo: (510) 284-0640