Start building a team of three or four students in 6th, 7th or 8th grade who want to tackle a community problem. You may want to team with other students who share a concern about one particular problem. A good team will have people with many different skills, interests, talents and experiences.
Ask an adult to join your team as a coach. You need someone who can volunteer time to help your team make a difference in your community using science and technology. Your coach will work with you throughout this competition project to keep your team on track and provide guidance and suggestions when you need them.
Brainstorm ideas and decide which community problems to begin investigating. Community problems can deal with just about anything that affects people's daily lives. What issues are important to you? Are these issues important to other people too? Make sure you're looking at all sides of an issue. You may want to talk to your family, friends, teachers or others about how the issue affects them. After you've looked at different problems, choose one that you want to address.
Do some research on possible solutions that include science and technology. What are some scientific ways to resolve the community problem you've chosen? You'll need to look at all sides again — how would other people be affected by the solutions you're proposing? What resources would you need — financial support, volunteer time from people in the community, raw materials, advice from an expert? Think about how you could get the resources. Contact community mentors who are experts or have a great interest in your issue to talk about your ideas.
Now it's time to get hands-on! Use the scientific methods of inquiry and investigation. Based on what you've discovered, propose a unique, creative solution. What innovative technology or approach would you like to test in order to try to solve the problem?
Design a test to see whether your solution will work. Be sure to record all your data and control any variables. Run experiments with a prototype to test your solution under various conditions. If your solution doesn't work, don't give up . . . brainstorm and test a new solution. Keep testing and modifying possible solutions to reach the best result. Most problems have more than one solution. Can you improve on your solution?
If your solution works and it's based on solid facts, sound thinking, good science and community input, congratulations! You have become a community innovator!
Prepare your entry and show the judges how your team applied its cranial matter to a community matter. You may end up at Walt Disney World. Plus you could win the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant to help bring your idea to life in your community!