About Us

This project started in 2014 in an effort to remove language, educational, and socioeconomic barriers that prevent students from participating in the science fair. The Science Fair Mentoring Project was born out of a desire to support these students. Now in its fifth year, the Science Fair Mentoring Project has assisted 238 students participate in the local science fair and 74 students to attend the Regional Science Fair in Mankato.

This project is led by a Board of Directors and steering committee comprised of the following community members and educators:

  • Catherine Haslag, Project Founder, Board President, and C.E.O.

  • Carolyn Bogott, retired early childhood educator and Secretary for the Board of Directors

  • Fred Bogott, retired doctor with Mayo Hospital and member of the Board of Directors

  • Rick Herreid, retired researcher from Hormel Research and Development and Treasurer for the Board of Directors

  • Gema Alvarado, Director of the Parenting Resource Center and member of the Board of Directors

  • Jake Vela, Success Coach, Banfield Elementary School and member of the Board of Directors

  • Shelly Weinmann, Teacher, Neveln Elementary School and member of the Steering Committee


  •  Increase enrollment in the science fair.

  • Provide students with the opportunity to develop positive relationships with adults in the community.

  • Expose students to science in a new way.
  • Provide a meaningful civic engagement opportunity to the Austin community and Riverland students


  • Project supplies. All of the supplies a student needs to complete their project will be provided to them at no cost to the student.

  • Guidance in completing project. Students are paired with mentors who guide them through the process of completing their experiment. Students work with the same mentor as much as possible to help facilitate relationship development between mentor and the student.
  • Engage with science in a new and exciting way. Science is best learned hands-on. This project allows students to experience science by actively engaging in it in a way they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
  • Improve self-confidence
  • Build positive relationships. The students who participate in this program build positive relationships with their adult mentor


  • Exposed approximately 725 3rd and 4th grade students to the scientific method through the kick-off and Mentos fountain activities.
  • Assisted a total of 238 students in participating in the science fair.
  • Average science fair scores at Neveln Elementary School have increased by 8 points since this project began in 2014.  This means students have on average gone from earning 3rd place to 2nd place ribbons as a result of this program.
  • More than 50% of the mentors who volunteer with this program return to serve for a  second year.
  • Volunteers have donated more then 6,000 hours to this program since 2014.

To learn more about this project, view the TEDxHoracePark presentation entitled The Power of a Hypothesis.[1]

Press Releases

Below are links to articles about this program, how it started, and its impact on the students it serves:



Science Fair Mentoring Project Ends a Great 4th Year



Science Fair Mentoring Project Begins Its Fourth Year

Neveln/Banfield Students Enroll in Science Project

Science Saturday Program Opens Children Up To the Scientific Method

Science Fair Mentoring Project Takes 34 to Regional Science Fair

5 Neveln Students Earn Special Awards at Fair



Mentorship project receives $43K grant; Money will allow for partnership with library, RCC

Mentoring Program Keeps Growing in Austin

Neveln Students Kick-Off Science Fair Projects

Science Fair Mentoring Project Takes Students to STEAM Expo



Teaming Up to Highlight Community Service

Science Fair Mentoring Program Preparing For a Second Year

Science Fair Fun For All; Students Work With Adult Mentors on Science Projects



Austin Resident Jumps Into Problem

Jumping Into Science; Sumner Elementary Fourth-Graders Start Looking Into Science Fair

Kids Learn Science By Doing Science