EMBARGOED UNTIL 10:00 PM, JUNE 25, 2003 — Photos available on request

Contact: Linda Topoleski, 412-281-2345, ltopoleski@dymun.com

Kyra Harmanos, 412-281-2345, kharmanos@dymun.com

 

Bexley Middle School Students Take First Place in National Competition

in Walt Disney World®

Students Developed Idea to Turn Roadkill Into Natural Fertilizer

Sawdust System Would Compost Dead Animals With Little Environmental Impact and No Foul Odors

 

photo of 4 students, coach and project

Walt Disney World, Florida—June 26, 2003—Bright ideas, solid research and teamwork won four students from Bexley Middle School in Bexley, OH, first place at the Christopher Columbus Awards held here this week. This national competition challenges middle-school students to explore opportunities for positive change in their communities. Nearly 2,000 students participated nationwide.

The students—eighth-graders Sarah Friedberg, Emily Roth, Carrie Schedler and Kathryn Scurci, along with their science teacher, Jon Hood—were concerned about foul odors and contaminated runoff created by burning or burying animal carcasses. After meeting with researchers at the Ohio State University, local officials with the Environmental Protection Agency and area composting facilities, the students devised a solution known as 'mortality composting,' to minimize or even eliminate the water and air pollution they say current disposal methods cause. Using layers of sawdust, combined with controlled heat and moisture, the students composted roadkill and euthanized animals from an area shelter to test their idea.

"This method is clean, odor-free and quick, and even produces a methane gas by-product which we would like to recapture for use as an alternative fuel," the students say.

The team won an expense-paid trip to Walt Disney World, along with nine other finalist teams, to experience the science behind the thrills as part of the Christopher Columbus Academy. In addition, each of these team members will receive a $5,000 U.S. Savings Bond.

In addition, three other teams received awards.

$25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant—A.M. Kulp Elementary School, Hatfield, PA-near Philadelphia—Hoping to make drivers think twice before passing an unloading school bus, this team plans to mount motion sensors and video cameras on the buses. They received the competition's top prize—the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant—to bring their idea to life.

 Second Place—Fontainebleau Junior High School, Mandeville, LA—Looking to make travels a little easier for people using walkers, the Fontainebleau students retrofitted a walker with a foldout seat and headlights. The seat helps when people with walkers are caught standing in a long line, and the headlights make navigation easier through dark corridors, such as in the home, movie theaters or other public places.

Third Place—Carlinville Middle School, Carlinville, IL—As the summer mosquito season hits, these students have an idea to prevent the spread of West Nile Virus—developing colonies of Purple Martins—birds that eat thousands of mosquitoes a day, and provide enjoyment with their bright color and song at the same time.

Child Safety, the Environment Top Students' List of Concerns

The most pressing community issues among this year's nearly 2,000 entries were child safety and the environment. Interestingly, many of the child safety entries were developed to help distracted or absent parents including: a bathtub scald stopper for babies and toddlers, a matchbox lock, and an electronic front door screener that would mimic adult voices or barking dogs and insist on information from the visitor before allowing the door to open.

Competition Attracts Teams of 'Everyday' Kids—Including an Unusually High Percentage of Girls and Minorities

More than half of the entrants to the Christopher Columbus Awards are girls, an unusually high number for a science competition, and a statistic that competition officials believe is linked to the teamwork aspect, which plays to a strength of middle-school-age girls. More than a fourth are from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, statistics that are higher than those of most science competitions.

"In a competition like this, middle school students gain critical life skills and discover, to their absolute amazement, that they truly can make a difference in the world," said Robert J. Glovitz, chairman of the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation. "They've seen that if they have a workable idea, and present it clearly, that very often people will listen and encourage them."

National Panel of Judges

Judges have included nationally prominent scientists, journalists, teachers and community leaders who have worked with children. This year's panel included: Greg Hale—Vice President, Design and Engineering and Regulatory Compliance, Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL;Robert J. Glovitz—Chief Executive Officer, ADS Communications, Inc., Scottsdale, AZ; Dr. Maria Lombardo—Educational Consultant, Rockville, MD; M. Joyce Van Schaack—Executive Vice President, Van Schaack Designs, Laguna Niguel, CA; Rosalyn Queen Alonso—Former Chair, Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, Clarksburg, WV

Ten finalist teams won an all-expense-paid trip to the Walt Disney World® Resort, where they competed in the Christopher Columbus Awards' National Championship Week, June 20-26. Rewards included $36,000 in U.S. Savings Bonds for the top three national winners. In addition, the Hatfield team will bring home the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant to help bring its idea to life in the community. The finalists also attended the Christopher Columbus Academy, a custom-designed educational program. Conducted by scientists, engineers and educators, the program reveals the science and technology behind the thrills and excitement of Epcot® and the Animal Kingdom®.

For a complete list of finalists and their entries, visit www.christophercolumbusawards.com.

Positive Community Change

The Christopher Columbus Awards challenge teams of middle-school students to explore and discover opportunities for positive change in their communities using science and technology. Formerly known as the Bayer/NSF Award, the program is now in its seventh year and has attracted more than 12,000 students from diverse backgrounds all across the U.S. The program is sponsored by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation with cooperation from the National Science Foundation and it is endorsed by the National Middle School Association.

About the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation

The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation is an independent Federal government agency 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. The Foundation has established Frontiers of Discovery—Work in Process and Discover the Future programs that recognize "cutting edge" innovation, innovative ideas of America's youth and honor teachers. These programs include the Frank Annunzio Award, Homeland Security Awards, Christopher Columbus Awards, National Gallery for America's Young Inventors and the Freida J. Riley Teacher Award. Please visit the Foundation's website at www.columbusfdn.org for more information on the programs it supports.

For more information on the Christopher Columbus Awards, call 1-800-291-6020 or visit www.christophercolumbusawards.com