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By Roz Rogoff

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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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The end of the Tri-Valley Science and Engineering Fair

Uploaded: Nov 3, 2011
After 15 years the Tri-Valley Science and Engineering Fair has outgrown the Tri-Valley. Next year the TVSEF will be split up by County. Middle and High School students in Alameda County will participate in the Alameda County Science and Engineering Fair at Chabot College in Hayward. Students in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District will head to Pittsburg in March, 2012 for the Contra Costa County Science & Engineering Fair at Los Medanos College.

Nadine Horner gave a presentation on the Tri-Valley Science and Engineering Fair (TVSEF) at the November meeting of the East Bay Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) at the Crow Canyon Country Club in Danville.

Horner is the External Relations Officer for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Six years ago she took over as Director of the TVSEF and made a lot of changes. At that time the Science Fair was held at the PG&E Conference Center in San Ramon.

Horner wanted a larger facility where all of the projects could be exhibited in one hall instead of multiple small rooms. This meant standing up to the 800 lb. gorilla in our midst, Chevron. According to Horner, the Chevron representative wanted to keep it at the PG&E Conference Center or among the cars in the Blackhawk Auto Museum.

Horner was worried that Chevron would take their money out of the Fair, but she also felt it would be better for the students to move the event to a more suitable location. The Robert Livermore Community Center had just opened and Horner moved the TVSEF there as the first major use of the facility.

The Chevron representative pulled out, but other regional companies filled the gap. Years later Chevron asked why they were not included and they have since returned as an "Albert Einstein" Sponsor.

Horner was concerned that the application package was too complicated. She recruited 52 teachers to simplify the process, which increased the number of applicants. This year, when most Science Fairs were cutting back, over 400 students participated in the TVSEF with 262 projects.

Horner's presentation on the TVSEF seemed like an unlikely topic for a group of Technical Writers, but T. R. Girill, Horner's co-presenter, is a retired Tech Writer from Lawrence Livermore Labs and an STC Fellow.

Girill described how he helped students "posterize" their projects to make the displays easier to follow and understand. Girill is a master of chunking complex content and turning it into comprehensible information. He coached students on how to break up long winded descriptions into topics, with titles, graphics, charts, text, pictures, and lists. The accompanying photo gives an example of how these poster displays communicated the content of students' projects.

So how did I wind up at a presentation on the TVSEF on November 3rd? I used to be a member of the East Bay Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication. Fourteen years ago I moved to San Ramon to take a job as a Technical Writer at a software company here. Even though I had years of experience as a systems trainer, which required writing instructional materials on how to use computerized business systems, I did not have actual experience as a Technical Writer. So I joined the local professional organization for Tech Writers, the East Bay Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC).

I dropped out of STC years ago after leaving my Tech Writing job, but I stayed on the email list for meeting notices. This month's presentation on the 2011 Tri-Valley Science and Engineering Fair (TVSEF) sounded like it would make a good column for my Observer blog, so I reserved a seat for the program. I haven't been to an East Bay STC meeting since the 2010 Christmas party, but it was nice dropping in again for this presentation and to see my old (and we are all so old now) colleagues.

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