Science enthusiasts' memories of their elementary school-era experiments are quickly conjured.

For Pleasant Hill Councilman Michael Harris, it was his fifth-grade experiment demonstrating the power of atomic energy as an alternative fuel source during the onset of the Cold War.

"Obviously I didn't build a nuclear reactor," says the associate dean and clinical professor emeritus for the School of Optometry at UC Berkeley. "I realized there were also peacetime uses."

And when it came time for his older daughter Ashley's quest, Harris followed his advice to "guide from the side and hope the initiative comes from the child."

A device that kept a raw egg from shattering on impact from 30 feet marked the beginning of her passion for science, which led to her recently earning her doctorate in biomedical engineering.

"There should be that 'a ha' moment, that I did something I didn't know I could do," says Harris, who through his volunteer, multiyear, community-based Pleasant Hill Education Initiative, is helping foster such insight.

More than 100 young people will be participating in the debut of the Citywide Science Fair for children ages 5-11 on March 4, at the Pleasant Hill Library.

"The (kids) should be the movers and shakers. That's where the love of science and being creative comes in."


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Budding scientist Nina Sandoval, 7, could be among the next generation of science buffs who may always remember their early hypotheses, spurred by the fact that she gets to have fun and "to learn cool stuff."

Nina already had an inkling that people recall images they've seen more than words, and set out to prove it in real time. Participants recently lined up at her Picture Superiority exhibit during the Horizons Home Study science fair and helped her reach a conclusion.

"She wanted to take her project on the road," says her father and home-school teacher, Rick Sandoval, about Nina's interest in giving it another go.

One goal of the citywide fair, explains Martin Nelis, public information officer for the City of Pleasant Hill, is to introduce youth to the sciences, "taking advantage of students' native curiosity."

Patrick Remer got hooked on science through "a really intense experience around a solar eclipse" in elementary school, followed by an experiment in middle school where he calculated the distance between nerves on one's fingertips.

The children's librarian at the Pleasant Hill Library pitched the idea for the citywide fair to his Education Initiative cohorts, which melded well with its vision of promoting enrichment opportunities primarily in the "STEM" realm: science, technology, engineering and math.

Already there was an appetite for youth people creating clever gizmos following the library's second annual Night of 1,000 Inventions last fall, which attracted 300 visitors, whose resounding response was "they wanted to see more."

Unlike school and district science fairs, there will be no first-, second- or third-prize ribbons. Each participant gets a free pass to Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science, with representatives providing hands-on activities at the citywide fair.

"This is a noncompetitive event. It's more exploratory and celebratory," says Remer.

"We want to celebrate every kid."

EXPERIMENTATION
WHAT: Pleasant Hill Citywide Science Fair
WHEN: 6:30-8 p.m., Tuesday, March 4
WHERE: Pleasant Hill Library, 1750 Oak Park Blvd.
COST: Free
INFO: 925-646-6434 or visit www.cclib.org