AUSTIN -- On Saturday, 200 schools competed in the 16th Annual Austin Energy Regional Science Festival at the Palmer Events Center.

Over the course of the three-day event, 3,000 students and family members attended as elementary students competed. Volunteer judges questioned the students about why they chose each experiment and their conclusions.

"When they can talk about it and they know what they are talking about and have a clear passion in the sciences, that's why were are here; to foster a passion in the sciences," said Sofie McComb, a volunteer judge with the University of Texas' Natural Science Council.

Students participated from 50 Austin Independent School District campuses and 150 schools in the region including Bastrop, Del Valle, Eanes, Georgetown, Hays, Hutto, Lake Travis, Leander, Pflugerville, San Marcos and Round Rock. Austin Energy sponsored the event to promote science, engineering, technology and math education, or STEM.

"I think I want to be a marine biologist, I'm really interested in science," said Aleah Rosner, a fifth-grade student at Doss Elementary School.

The winning students in the junior and senior divisions advanced to the Texas Science and Engineering Fair, and the "Best of Fair" project advanced to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.