Contact: Linda Topoleski, 412-281-2345
Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation
Judith Shellenberger, 315-258-0090


Myrtle Beach-Area Students Win National Award For Plan to Convert
Ocean Tides Into Energy and Protect Saltwater Marshes

Students to Receive the Frank Annunzio Chairman’s Award from Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation at Special Ceremony in Walt Disney World®

AUBURN, NY—June 21, 2007—Four students working with Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, SC, have won a top national award for their innovative plan to convert the ocean's tides into usable energy, while saving the area's saltwater marshes. Sixth-graders Brianna Strang, Jesse Perl and Ryan Sutton, and eighth-grader Kayla Powers, and their coach, Ripley's Aquarium Camp Director Michelle Ruthenberg, have won the prestigious Frank Annunzio Chairman's Award, given by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation to recognize students who use the scientific process to develop an innovative solution for a pressing national issue. This year, the Foundation challenged students nationwide to develop alternative energy solutions.

The Award includes an all-expense-paid trip to Walt Disney World and a $5,000 grant which the team can designate for a qualified nonprofit to help implement their plan. In addition, team members will each receive $1,000 U.S. Savings Bonds for their efforts.

Team Photo

Columbus Foundation Community Grant Chairman's Award Winners,
"Saltwater Marshals" Team — Myrtle Beach, SC.

Left to right: Coach Michelle Ruthenberg, Kayla Powers, Brianna Strang, Jesse Perl and Ryan Sutton.

Turning the Tides into Energy

For their project, this team investigated the role that saltwater marshes play in the world's ecosystem and found that they act as buffer zones to reduce coastal erosion and contain flooding, act as a natural sponge to absorb pollution, and serve as a nursing ground and breeding area for land and sea animals as well as birds. Saltwater marshes receive most of their water from the daily tides of the ocean. The students developed an idea to harness the energy of those daily tides by building a 'tidal mill,' made of a spinning wheel and pulley, similar to a watermill, right in the saltwater marshes. A special gear on the tidal mill is connected to a generator to convert the tidal forces into electrical energy. They have proven their idea with a working prototype that powers a lightbulb.

Innovative Ideas Nationwide

As global warming and rising fuel prices continue to attract consumer interest and expert input, students nationwide began work on ideas to replace or reduce existing energy sources. Project ideas included:

Team Wins a Trip to Walt Disney World®

The team wins an all-expense-paid trip to the Walt Disney World® Resort, June 17-22, 2007, where they will participate in the Christopher Columbus Awards’ National Championship Week and the Christopher Columbus Academy, a custom-designed educational program conducted by scientists, engineers and educators. The Academy 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 11th year, and has attracted more than 15,000 students from diverse backgrounds all across the U.S.

The Frank Annunzio Chairman's Award is part of the Christopher Columbus Awards, also sponsored by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation ( It was named in recognition of the Honorable Frank Annunzio, a member of the United States House of Representatives representing Chicago, Illinois, for 28 years, who championed the legislation establishing the Foundation.

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