Contact: Linda Topoleski, 412-389-0410
Or: Hesperia Junior High School
Teacher Barbara Jacobs, 760-244-9386

Special Needs Students from Hesperia Junior High School Win Gold Medal
in National Science/Community Service Competition Held at Walt Disney World

Students Developed a Custom Wrist Band Phone Holder
to Enable People of All Abilities to Communicate Easily

— No Product on the Market Today Meets These Needs —

ORLANDO, FL—June 1, 2006—A team of students with disabilities from Hesperia, CA, combined their ingenuity with personal experience to win a top prize—the Gold Medal and a $2,000 Savings Bond at the Christopher Columbus Awards, a nationwide program that challenges middle-school students to explore opportunities for positive change in their communities.

Earlier this month, eighth-graders Kattie Greene and Emilee Landon, seventh-graders Eric Coldwell and David Perez, and their coach, Special Education Teacher Barbara Jacobs, became one of eight finalist teams in the competition.

After researching current products on the market for access and portability, the team developed an idea for a wristband cell phone holder to allow hands-free functioning and portability. They also conducted a survey of other special-needs students to gain their input for product development. The teams' disabilities include three members in wheelchairs, one with cerebral palsy, one with brittle-bone disease and one with a hearing impairment, so they know all too well the barriers they face in trying to access a telephone. Issues such as the location and portability of the phone or the design of the earpiece can prevent people with disabilities from effectively enjoying the convenience of mobile communications.

Team Photo

Gold Medal Award Winners, "H.O.T. Band " — Hesperia, CA.
Left to right, front row: David Perez, Emilee Landon and Eric Colwell.
Left to right, standing: Kattie Greene and Coach Barbara Jacobs.

Current products on the market require hands-on involvement to remove most cell phones from their holders, which the team saw as an obstacle for people who have limited fine motor skills, those in wheelchairs who need their hands to navigate, and people who are blind. Other products require an earpiece which does not work for people with hearing impairments.

The students hand-sewed their prototype out of denim and Velcro and tested it with team members with positive results. The holder is flexible enough to attach to an arm or anywhere on a wheelchair.

A panel of community leaders, scientists and experts in science education judged this idea as one of the top eight entries in the U.S. Over 1,200 students and coaches participated nationwide.

Team Wins a Trip to Walt Disney World

The team and their coach won an all-expense-paid trip to the Walt Disney World Resort, where they competed in the Christopher Columbus Awards' National Championship Week, and participated in 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 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 tenth year and has attracted nearly 14,000 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 students from IS 164 in the Washington Heights section of New York who won a special Judges' Award for their portable, inflatable backpack seat which would enable students of all sizes to see the blackboard; 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.

About the Sponsor

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 Progress and Discover the Future, programs that recognize "cutting edge" innovations, innovative ideas of America's youth, and honor teachers. These programs include the Homeland Security Award, Christopher Columbus Awards, National Gallery for America's Young Inventors and the $10,000 Freida J. Riley Teacher Award.

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