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Editor's Note: Fran and Robin Bergeron-Nolan have led the trip to Beijing since 2006. They are the most loving tiger parents for the students on these trips you can imagine. They handle the planning, the logistics, provide support, and ensure safety. It is a lot of work. Robin blogs about the trip, and Fran takes the photos. Our thanks to both of you for this tremendous gift you have given our students over the years to showcase their research and explore the world.

March 21

Fran and I arrived at the hotel this evening. Our flight out of Greensboro had an on time departure and early arrival into Chicago (conditions good, but cold). We arrive the evening before in the event other members of the team get delayed due to weather, airport issues, etc. Looking forward to seeing the other members of the USA delegation on Wednesday.

March 22

Fran is working on logistical issues this morning and I am checking email, making calls, RDU flight arrival status, etc. in order to handle as much business as possible before the international flight. The group is estimated to arrive at 11:30 am. It’s a good day to fly!

Gate change for Beijing departure flight…originally scheduled to go out of Gate C18 and it’s now C10. Heading to a different gate to meet the group. Fran already in route.

March 23

A little trouble at the gate ticketing station, but they boarded us without scanning the ticket (tore off the side stub).  The students and adults doing last minute runs before boarding. Fran’s last minute run was getting popcorn. Once on board, it was a good flight. Some of the team members were able to sleep a little and others not so much.

Arrived a few minutes early to the airport. Everyone got through the passport/visa check station before picking up luggage. I was a little worried when everyone had their luggage, but me. However, Fran picked it up on the other side of the area we were waiting. Our Beijing Association for Science and Technology (BAST) staff — Jeremy and Celia — were waiting for our arrival once we left the last checkpoint. The bus picked us up and took us to University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS), and we arrived just in time for the welcome dinner. Li Hong, a long-time friend, greeted us upon our arrival. At the conclusion of dinner, NCISC/BYSCC participants got their luggage and headed to the room. Some of the team went to the store for incidentals and others to their room to get ready for the next day (hopefully sleep).

March 24

Breakfast at 6:30 am…prep and logistics for the day. Mike Mullen is one of the featured speakers for the science education innovation forum. Looking forward to hearing his presentation along with others in the science world.  In the afternoon, the adults went to technology and innovative science exhibits while the students were stationed in the gym (morning and afternoon) for any questions from the judges. We will see the students at dinner.

Students went to their rooms before dinner… a long, tiring day. Came to eat before turning in early. We will see them in the morning at breakfast. The exhibition is a good opportunity for students to visit with students from other countries, look at their research, and have the opportunity for additional learning opportunities.

March 25

Off to breakfast to greet other members of the team. Exhibition is open to the public today. This will be another long day, but interesting to see student work from across the world.

After breakfast, the group walked over to the gym for the student research/exhibition. Nice to get out and stretch a little. The exhibition provides a forum for the students to highlight key areas of their research and gives visitors (parents, family members, local officials, and others) the opportunity to ask questions. For the Chinese students, it also gives them the opportunity to practice their English. Student interpreters were present and ready to assist with translation when needed. Mebane filmed the students as they gave their “elevator speech.”

After lunch, BAST added a new session to the itinerary which was the student workshop. Several students were selected to provide a brief presentation about their research. At the end of their presentation, they were asked a question by a panel of three judges. Basically, they provided clarification or were asked to elaborate on a specific idea/area that dealt with the research.

 

After dinner, the buses took everyone to the Award Ceremony for “Special Prizes.”  The ceremonial hosts introduced local students who provided several performances (dance, musical, and kung fu). They invited students from the audience to come up on stage so they could participate in a kung fu demonstration. Arjun hopped up and was one of about six students who were taught a couple of “key moves” and then asked to demonstrate without the help of the trainer. He did a great job!  The costumes worn during the musical and dance performances were vibrant and representative of Chinese culture. The hosts also MC’d the event and acknowledged students who were recognized on the merit of their research…innovative ideas. We were thrilled that Ana Sofia was one of the international students recognized with a check for $3,000 Yuan ($500.00 USD). We shared in her enthusiasm as she went up on the stage. Congratulations, Ana Sofia! Hoping for more US student recognitions at the closing ceremony tomorrow.

March 26

This morning we attended the closing ceremony. Each of the four US students were recognized with first or second place medals. Dory and Arjun took first place medals and Ana Sofia and Raymond took second place. It was great seeing the US delegation place with the increased competition and setup arrangements this year. Each student also received a certificate. At the conclusion of the event, we all walked back to the hotel to change before going to the Great Wall. 

Traveling to the Great Wall was not originally on the agenda, but added after feedback from several delegations.  The students and adults travel too far a distance not to be able to see some of the iconic sights and the Great Wall was at the top of the list. This section of the Great Wall was close to the hotel and may be my favorite section.  After the hotel bus dropped us off, we took the shuttle and cable car to the entrance for this section of the Great Wall. It was neat being able to look out over the Great Wall and surrounding area from the cable car. Students and adults from multiple delegations walked segments of the Great Wall at their leisure for approximately four hours.  The temperature started out mild and sunny, but quickly changed to cold and snowy…yes, it was snowing off and on while we were on the Great Wall. It was a clear day and the landscape was just beautiful. Everyone got back to the bus in a timely manner and headed back to the hotel. It was a great afternoon!

After dinner at the hotel, I came back to the room and started packing. Got as much done as possible prior to last minute arrangements. Breakfast in the morning and then we are scheduled to leave the hotel shortly thereafter for downtown Beijing. Looking forward to new adventures with the team tomorrow!

March 27

This morning some of the team members gave “thanks you” gifts to the student interpreters and other delegation members from the other countries. After breakfast the team is scheduled to depart the hotel around 8:30 am. In most cases, this is the last time we will see the country leaders/teams until the next year. On our departing bus, we had members of the Russian and Australian teams along with interpreters. We journeyed to downtown Beijing and said goodbye to the other delegation members along with the interpreters for our team. There was some sadness expressed and lots of hugs between team members and the interpreters when the interpreters left for school.

We arrived to our hotel late morning or so and some of us got checked into the hotel while a couple of others would check in once their rooms got cleaned. Team members met in the lobby before heading to the Summer Palace in the van that was arranged by Fran and BAST staff. We enjoyed all the beauty that the Summer Palace has to offer and were pleased not to have huge crowds of people. Lots of pictures from various team members during the walk around the facility. Team members left to return back to the hotel.

Planning for Embassy visit in the morning. Nancy Sung has gotten the team cleared for a visit. While at the Embassy, Nancy plans to talk with students about their research projects. The Forbidden City is scheduled for this afternoon.

Fran Nolan

Dr. Fran Nolan is the CEO of Spartina Consulting Group, LLC. He has been leading the trip to Beijing since 2006.

Robin Bergeron-Nolan

Robin Bergeron-Nolan is the director of health services for Guilford County Schools.