April 6-8th, 1957 was the very first Flint Area Science Fair
It was created by Richard M. Harbeck, science teacher at Flint Technical High School who was the 1st Fair Director. He affiliated it with the National Science Fair – International so the winners could go on to further prizes and recognition. In 1958 the International fair was held in Flint and Mr. Harbeck was the Fair Director of the International that year. In a few years the Flint fair attracted as many as 1400 student entries (pictured).
There was great excitement in Flint about the first fair. Much publicity accompanied the fair and many community leaders were involved. Public concern at the time was that our science education was not keeping up with the Russians.
At the awards dinner, yes, they had food then, attended by 900 people the address was by Dr. Wernher von Braun. He was already famous as developer of the V2 rocket and head of the U.S. Army missile program. In a few months he was to become a household word as the man who got United States into space and to the Moon when all looked dismal in the wake of the Soviet Unions’ Oct 4, 1957 launch of Sputnik and November launch of Sputnik II years ahead of anything that we were capable of doing at the time. He was the subject of a major Hollywood movie, many books and even a comic book series.
The First Flint fair had a Junior and Senior Divisions, there was no Elementary Division. For two days students stood by their projects explaining them to the over five thousand people who came to the Ballenger Field House to see the Fair, I had an exhibit in the Junior Division as a 7th grader. Dr. von Braun handed my ribbon to me. This was an exciting time for me and for the community.
by David C. Hill, current board member