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Embargoed until 11:00 PM EST                                                Contact: Linda Topoleski, 412-939-3698

June 20, 2002                                                                                          or Rachel Handel, 412-281-2345                                                                                                                    See photos at



Middle School Students Take First Place in Bayer/NSF Award

by Putting the Brakes on Runaway Shopping Carts


Other Winners Tackle Issues Ranging from Wheelchair Accidents and Infant Deaths in Cars

 to a Serious Environmental Threat to Lakes Across the Country


Walt Disney WorldÒ, Orlando, FL—June 21, 2002—Some of the nation’s most innovative middle

school students were named Columbus Foundation Community Grant and Bayer/National Science Foundation Award winners today for their ideas to solve important community issues, including: a braking system to prevent runaway shopping carts, a braking system to slow wheelchairs on slopes, a baby beeper to prevent children from being left in cars, and an environmental action plan to stop the spread of the Eurasion water milfoil an ‘aquatic exotic’ which is choking lakes in 45 states across the U.S.


The Bayer/NSF Award is a nationwide, leading-edge program that challenges middle school students to use science and technology to solve a community problem.


"This competition is refreshing—it shows that kids still believe they can change the world," said Dr. William Warren, President of Sciperio, Inc., and a former research scientist with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).


This year’s winners tackled issues both urgent and ubiquitous, developing solutions that could improve the lives of their peers and others in communities across the country and around the world:


$25,000 COLUMBUS FOUNDATION COMMUNITY GRANT—Milfoil Masters, Minocqua, WI— The Eurasion Water Milfoil is a fast-growing weed that is choking lakes all across the country, stunting tourism, fishing and boating, and threatening lake ecology. A group of students from Minocqua-Hazelhurst and Lake Tomahawk Elementary School have taken action with a weevil that feeds on the milfoil to keep its growth in check, and an education program for boaters and residents to help prevent the spread of the milfoil which sticks to boats and fishing lines and moves from lake to lake. The team includes eighth-grader Janell Zajicek and seventh-graders Maree Stewart and Luke Voellinger, and their coach, teacher Lisa Ahlers.

Photo of 3 students and Eurasion Water Milfoil project


FIRST PLACE—The Stopping Cart, Brandon, MS—Runaway shopping carts are a common site at most grocery and large chain stores. Brandon Middle School seventh-graders Patricia Rincon, Lauren Rushing, Joel Anderson, Patrick Hall, and their coach, teacher Joe Ann Clark, aim to change that with their new invention: a set of brakes. The brakes are engaged at the handle of the cart, and operate much like the handle of a self-propelled lawn mower. 

Greg Hale, Vice President of Ride and Show Engineering at Walt Disney World, and one of the Bayer/NSF Award judges, called their design "elegant engineering," and said the invention was "ready to go."

Photo of 4 students and shopping cart

The 'Stopping Cart' team interviewed NASA scientists, engineers and chain store managers to devise their solution. Officials at a national chain store told the students that they pay an average of $5,000 per store nationwide in claims related to shopping cart damage to cars in their parking lots.


SECOND PLACE—Pendulum Braking System for Wheelchairs, North Wales, PA—People in wheelchairs, and those pushing them, often have difficulty controlling the speed of a chair when going down ramps and sloped areas. Along with their coach, teacher Joan Hurd, the team of sixth-graders from Gwyn-Nor Elementary School, Douglas Farrar, Stephen Jordan, Sanjay Misra and Reece Thompson, combined trigonometry concepts and mechanical devices to create a pendulum braking system that applies pressure to the back wheels based on the grade of the slope.

Photo of 4 students and wheelchair project


“These kids really knew their trigonometry which is very surprising for sixth grade,” said Renee Wilkerson Anderson, a mathematics teacher at Grant High School in Portland, OR, and a Bayer/NSF Award judge.


THIRD PLACE—Baby Beeper, Las Vegas, NV—In 2001, the Las Vegas Fire Department rescued over 600 babies from hot cars. Three of these cases resulted in deaths. Seventh-graders Kelsey Hand, Rachelle Taylor and Athena Pisanello, and their coach, teacher Steve Loyd, decided to take action to prevent any more serious injuries. Their invention—a baby beeper that transmits a signal from a child car seat to the driver’s keychain if a child has been left behind in a car.

Photo of 3 students and Baby Beeper project


Strong Showing for Young Female Scientists

The Bayer/NSF Award is designed to attract all kinds of kids to science, including those from groups traditionally less likely to participate. Sixty percent of Bayer/NSF Award entrants are girls and nearly

30 percent are minorities.


More than 2,500 students from across the U.S. entered the Bayer/NSF Award, now in its sixth year.

Ten finalist teams won a trip to Walt Disney World where they participated in the Christopher Columbus Academy, a unique educational experience in which the students learn about science and technology by working side-by-side with engineers, scientists and other innovators at Walt Disney World and NASA.


First, second and third place teams received $5,000, $3,000 and $1,000 per person in U.S. Savings

Bonds. One team received the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant, as seed money to bring its idea to life.


Scientists, Community Leaders Endorse Students’ Ideas

The National Championship competition included written and oral presentations and interviews with a distinguished panel of judges, including: Steve Culbertson, President and CEO of Youth Service America; Greg Hale, VP, Design and Engineering and Regulatory Compliance for Walt Disney World; Dr. James Youniss, Director of the Life Cycle Institute at the Catholic University of America; Dr. William Warren, President of Sciperio, Inc., and a former research scientist with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); and Renee Wilkerson Anderson, a mathematics teacher at Grant High School in Portland, OR.


An Opportunity Open to All Middle School Students

By linking science and community service, the Bayer/NSF Award provides students a leading-edge educational experience. The students use their curiosity, creativity and critical thinking skills, applying talents ranging from art and writing to science and math.


"Most competitions are geared to the top 5% students," says Sue Swaim of the National Middle School Association. "The Bayer/NSF Award is a wonderful experience for students at all levels."



For the sixth year, Bayer Corporation, the National Science Foundation and the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation have formed a partnership to sponsor the Bayer/NSF Award, which features the Columbus Foundation Community Grant.


Bayer Corporation is a $10 billion company best known for its flagship product, Bayer Asprin. Bayer Corporation produces a broad range of healthcare, life science and chemical products that help diagnose and treat diseases, purify water, preserve local landmarks, protect crops, advance automobile safety and durability and improve people’s lives. The Bayer/NSF Award is part of Bayer’s Making Science Make Sense program, an initiative advancing science literacy across the United States through hands-on, inquiry-based science learning, employee volunteerism and public education.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent U.S. government agency responsible for promoting science and engineering through programs that invest more than $4.4 billion per year in almost 20,000 research and education projects in science and engineering. The mission of the NSF is to “promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; and to secure the national defense.”


Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation is an independent agency of the Federal Government created by Congress in 1992 to encourage and support research, study and labor designed to produce new discoveries in all fields of endeavor for the benefit of mankind.

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