New York Students Receive High Honor in
National Science Competition
Judges Award

Washington Heights Students Invented an Inflatable Back Pack Chair to
Level the Classroom Learning Field for Different Size Students in Middle School

Judges cite students' exceptional innovation in identifying a problem
that adults have overlooked—School furniture is one-size but doesn't fit all.


ORLANDO, FL—June 24, 2005—A group of students from Edward W. Stitt, IS 164 in New York, received one of the top honors at the Christopher Columbus Awards held here last night. Eighth-graders Gracy Escolastico, Ramon De Jesus, and Yenedy Arias, and seventh-grader Angela Lopez, and their teacher, Ramon Sanchez, received the Special Judges' Award after competing against more than 1,100 students from across the U.S.

The Christopher Columbus Awards are a nationwide program that challenges middle-school students to find a pressing issue in their communities and use science and technology to solve it.

Noting a huge disparity in size—up to a foot and a half in height and 100 pounds in weight-among middle-school students nationwide, these students decided to level the playing field in the classroom. They discovered that some of their classmates were unable to fully see the teacher and blackboard, or participate at lab tables, without sitting on their feet or standing. They also identified physical, psychological and academic issues that result from students sitting in furniture that is too big for them. So they developed an inflatable backpack that folds out into a chair which the students can easily take to each class and even carry their supplies in.

Team Photo

Judges Award Winners, "Chade Bag" — New York, NY.
Left to right: Ramon De Jesus, Yenedy Arias, Coach Ramon Sanchez,
Gracy Escolastico and Angela Lopez.

The students researched various furniture designs with manufacturers and surveyed students and teachers at their school to develop their design. They also tested the inflatable chair and determined it would be just as utilitarian outside the classroom, at sporting events, concerts, and other locations.

The panel of national judges gave this award for just the second time in nine years to honor exceptional innovation on the part of these students in identifying a problem that adults often overlook-School furniture is one-size but doesn't fit all.

Team Wins a Trip to Walt Disney World

The team won an all-expense-paid trip to the Walt Disney World Resort, where they competed in the Christopher Columbus Awards' National Championship Week, June 19 - 24. They also attended the Christopher Columbus Academy, a custom-designed educational program conducted by scientists, engineers and educators, that reveals the science and technology behind the thrills and excitement of Epcot and the Magic Kingdom.

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. The program is now in its ninth year and has attracted nearly 13,000 students from diverse backgrounds all across the U.S. The program is sponsored by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation ( with support from the National Science Foundation and it is endorsed by the National Middle School Association. Past winners have included a group of Native American girls who built a study hall out of straw on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana, and a group of students from Pennsylvania who developed a video/motion sensor device for school buses that deters motorists from trying to pass illegally. Strong Participation from Girls, Minorities

The program attracts many students who may not typically enter a science competition. More than half of the entrants are girls, and more than a fourth are from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, statistics that are higher than those of most science competitions. The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation believes the teamwork aspect and community focus draw a broader range of students to enter.