Two popular statewide science programs — the Science Fair and Science Bowls — have obtained the needed funding to continue for another year, according to the Minnesota Academy of Science (MAS), which runs the programs.
MAS has secured $100,000 in new donations and pledges to support the programs, which were put on the chopping block after the 150-year-old nonprofit lost a longtime sponsor that had been covering a third of its Science Fair budget.
"I'm thrilled to announce that the community really stepped up over the summer to save our State Science Fair and State Science Bowls," executive director Lara Maupin wrote in a news release posted on the MAS website.
In June, MAS leaders announced that the programs faced critical revenue shortfalls, potentially affecting thousands of students and jeopardizing science fairs held across Minnesota.
To save the programs, the nonprofit launched a fundraising campaign to attract new funders and close a nearly $200,000 budget gap. MAS has now closed half the budget gap and is making plans to bring students back for in-person events in 2024.
The MAS board voted recently to approve the Science Bowl and Science Fair budgets. The organization is still in search of new sponsors and continues to fundraise in order to establish a sustainable path forward for both programs.
"I don't want to have to raise the alarm like this every summer," Maupin said. "But thankfully we're in a much better place than we were three months ago and I remain confident we can get to where we need to be."
Each winter, up to 500 middle and high school students advance to the State Science and Engineering Fair from regional fairs held across the state, showcasing their original research on topics ranging from diseases to everyday challenges and environmental issues. Students participating in Science Bowls dedicate their fall and after-school hours to the study of math and science for a chance to represent Minnesota in the National Science Bowl.
MAS has sponsored the Science Fair since 1950 and the Science Bowls since 1994. The programs are considered instrumental in giving scientifically minded young people the skills and mentorships they need to solve problems, while encouraging them to pursue careers in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math.