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Philadelphia-Area Students Win Top Prize—$25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant—at National Competition in Walt Disney World®
Students Adapted Tollbooth Video Technology to Stop Motorists from Illegally Passing School Buses
Students Met with PA Legislators and Governor Ed Rendell to Introduce
PA House Bill 1315 Which Would Allow This Type of Video Camera on School Buses
Walt Disney World, Florida—June 26, 2003—Bright ideas, solid research and teamwork won three students from A.M. Kulp Elementary in Hatfield, PA, the top prize—the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant—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.
Drivers tempted to pass an unloading school bus would think twice if the students' idea comes to life. That's the hope of this team of 6th graders—Nicholas Burkwit, Tracey Hickey and Tyler Schultz, and their teacher Joan Hurd. Their idea is to mount motion sensors and cameras similar to those used at highway tollbooths on schoolbuses to photograph the license plates of illegally passing cars.
The team met with alarm companies and school bus companies to devise their solution. They also have met with PA Governor Ed Rendell and PA State Rep. Robert Godshall-R, Hatfield, to gather support for modifying school buses. As a result of those meetings, Rep. Godshall introduced House Bill 1315 that would allow the devices on school buses.
"We're concerned about the safety of school kids and hope to prevent an accident by making motorists think twice before they decide to illegally pass a school bus," the students said.
First Place—Bexley Middle School, Bexley, OH—Concerned about the environmental impact and odor of burning animal carcasses in Ohio, this team developed an idea to turn road kill into compost, creating an odor free, environmentally friendly fertilizer.
Second Place—Fontainebleau Junior High School, Mandeville, LA—Looking to make travels a little easier for people with disabilities, 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 entries are 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.
Strong Participation From Girls, Children of Diverse Backgrounds
Nearly 2,000 students entered the competition and more than half of them 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 for the awards 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 Chairman, Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, Clarskburg, 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 Americas 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.