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Eastern Tennessee Middle and High School Students Adjust to COVID-19 Social Distancing and Competed in The Region’s Science Fair Virtually!

KNOXVILLE, Tn. —April 9, 2020— The Southern Appalachian Science & Engineering Fair (SASEF), typically held at Thompson Boling Arena during the first week of April, moved online this year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Students virtually presented their research covering a variety of categories in STEM through Zoom, a video communication platform. Students competed in two divisions — Junior Division for middle school students, grades 6 – 8, and Senior Division for high school students, grades 9 – 12.

Even with constant cancellations in the community in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the SASEF Board of Directors and their co-partners in the event at the University of Tennessee wanted to ensure the students involved had the opportunity to present their original research to a panel of STEM judges made up of University of Tennessee faculty and local scientists. Students presented in this virtual science fair competed for a chance to win cash prizes and awards from local companies and national corporations and groups. The virtual judging took place on Tuesday, March 31.

“SASEF has been operating since 1952 and we did not want 2020 to be the first year we were not able to hold the fair. The students worked hard on their projects and we wanted to give them the opportunity to share it. We appreciate the work of the staff on the Pre-College Research Excellence Programs at UT and their willingness to move the event online. They have been an exceptional partner for us,”  Dr. Kim Gwinn, SASEF Board Member and Fair Director.

“We wanted to continue with the event, both to add some normalcy for the kids but also allow them to share the research they have been working so hard on. We have received encouraging feedback from both the students and teachers on our decision to continue with the event”, Dr. Marisa Moazen, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Engagement and Director, Office of Undergraduate Research.

In a typical year, SASEF sends the first and second place Senior Division winners to the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (Regeneron ISEF). Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Regeneron ISEF had to cancel this year’s fair, but will offer a secondary virtual event with the details pending for summer 2020.

The Southern Appalachian Science and Engineering Fair (SASEF) winners were announced on Wednesday, April 8 during our Live Awards Stream. There were 99 judges who either judged SASEF awards or local and national special awards. Winners received SASEF awards and Local Award prizes from $50-$500. They also received category and topic-based prizes from national organizations and local companies.

The Grand Champion in the Senior Division was Eric Armstrong from Oak Ridge High School. The Grand Champion of the Junior Division was Alaina Duty from Duty Home School. The Reserve Champion at the Senior Division level was Veda Seay and Andrew Brady from Oak Ridge High School. The Reserve Champion at the Junior Division level was Anjali Ananthula from University School. To view all 2020 SASEF award winners visit

The Virtual Awards Ceremony featured a guest appearance by Smokey, the UT Mascot. There was also a surprise keynote speaker, Dr. Tracie Prater. Dr. Prater is an engineer in the Materials and Processes Laboratory at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where she serves as the laboratory lead for the in-space manufacturing (ISM) project. In 2014, the ISM project, in partnership with Made in Space, launched the first 3D printer to the International Space Station. Dr. Prater presented the national NASA award to the winning student. The NASA Earth Systems Science Award is given at each regional fair to the student with an outstanding project offering the greatest insight into Earth’s interconnected systems.

A big thank you goes out to all the 2020 SASEF Sponsors and Partners for making the event a success and furthering SASEF’s mission to promote STEM education in East Tennessee.

Platinum sponsors: Jenny and Randy Boyd, The University of Tennessee Pre-College Research Excellence Programs

Silver sponsors: Tennessee Center for Health Workforce Development, NOAA/ATDD, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Tennessee Valley Authority, UT-Battelle/ORNL

Bronze sponsors: IEEE East Tennessee Section, East Tennessee Foundation, Strata-G, Hosker Science Services, Bruce Tomkins, American Chemical Society Northeast Tennessee Section, American Meteorological Society Smoky Mountain Chapter, American Nuclear Society Oak Ridge/Knoxville Section, Society of Women Engineers Smoky Mountain Chapter, Tennessee Science Teachers Association, Great Smoky Mountain Chapter of Tau Beta Pi

For more information about the Southern Appalachian Science and Engineering Fair (SASEF), visit

For photos of the Southern Appalachian Science and Engineering Fair visit


Audrey Sizemore, Pre-College Research Excellence Programs

(865) 974-7954