The Student Pin Exchange is two hours away, but finalists have already broken out their cultural booty to swap in the aisles between their projects.
It's not just students who collect and exchange pins, though. For example, check out our friend Bill Chown:
We caught up with another compulsive pin-hoarder, John Turner, and asked him a few questions about the habit. The Q&A is below the fold.
Q: Can you tell us your name and where you're from?
A: My name's John Turner, I'm from San Jose, California, and I'm on the Host Committee. We're putting on the 2010 international science fair. That's what brought me here and that's what takes me all over the country to all the fairs each year.
Q: What's your background?
A: Well, I have a science background. Actually, I'm in statistics. I have a BS degree in statistics, and a background in biology and chemistry. In my area, i sit on the board that puts on the regional science fair in California, which leads me to being here at the international fair for our students. Hopefully this year we'll have some winners.
Q: How many fairs have you been to?
A: Ahh, let's see... I've been to, this is my probably my fifth one.
Q: Can you tell us more about all these pins and buttons we see here?
A: Well, these pins have been collected from all the students from all over the world. We trade 'em. It's fun. I just walk around and say, "Would you like one of my pins, and do you have one you wanna trade?" and then we trade. So, over the years I've collected them from all fifty states, and now I'm working on different countries. This year we'll have about 48 different countries that will be represented here.
Q: Are there any favorite pins you have or any that you're looking to get, any that are missing from your collection?
A: Ahh yes... I would like ones from... Burma. Small countries.
Q: You might have to wait for Burma a little while...
A: I may have to wait for them. But yeah, maybe Thailand, too.
Q: Now, are you gonna be in attendance tonight at the pin exchange? Or wait, that's just for the students, right?
A: The pin exchange is just for the students, but we do have adult mixers, and we exchange pins also. And then of course, when I'm walking around throughout the Fair, just like you saw, I ask them if they have anything to trade, and they always say, "Sure!" Everyone brings their pins with them and it's become kind of a tradition.
The pins are like symbols, representing their particular state or country, and they serve as a goodwill-type thing. You know, to build goodwill towards and between the different students, between the countries and all the states.
Q: Give us an estimate -- how many total pins do you have?
A: Oh gosh, I'm just gonna guesstimate! I probably have more than 500 pins!