The pig was a first.

"Without a doubt," Paul Lasker said.

The longtime organizer of the Columbus City Schools Exceptional Science Fair at Beechcroft High School was marveling at how much interest was being generated by a 175-pound, 3-year-old porker named Kevin Bacon that was a science project of Preston Ratcliff, a Beechcroft junior.

Students, both those in special-education programs and those not, who were on hand for the 24th edition of the fair Nov. 9 crowded in to see the big pig, that accepted petting under the watchful eye of Preston's mother, Amie Stanton.

A piggish roar from Kevin sent them scrambling, but they soon drifted back to gaze at the bristly animal.

This year's fair for special-needs, multihandicapped and orthopedically impaired high school students from throughout the district, drew approximately 80 students. They showed off projects they had worked on, as individuals and in teams, that align with the Ohio Department of Education science standards for high-schoolers.

The brochure for the event, handed out by Beechcroft students to those entering the crowded and bustling library, states that the fair "continues to show that all students throughout Columbus can learn, enjoy and grow through the power of hands-on science."

"It's not just a two-hour event," Lasker said of the fair, which ran from 10 a.m. to noon.

"Throughout the year, different things in the community are being connected."

Lasker, a Clintonville resident, has been the principal organizer of the Exceptional Science Fair for the past 16 years, after spending eight years helping former Beechcroft instructors Mary Ann Crowley and Nancy Deltaco, who put on the first one in 1994.

"It's a lot of work, but it's now this community thing," Lasker said. "It's a year-round thing."

A team of special-education students from Northland High School, with the help of counterparts in the science, technology, engineering and math program, put together a radio-controlled robot that could pick up plastic traffic cones. This was their second year participating in the fair, said teacher Jill Yurkovic, but the first time trying a robotics project.

"They were very engaged," she said.

The Centennial High School students at the fair spent three weeks of daily classroom research on their project, which resulted in posters depicting dozens of species that are endangered and threatened, said Jackie Levakis, who teachers science special education. The project, she said, involved learning for the students on a variety of levels.

"It's a big deal for them," Levakis said. "They're proud of what they do and their success."