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National Winners

1999-2000 Bayer/NSF Award

$64,000 in grants and U.S. Savings Bonds was awarded to this year's Bayer/NSF Award winners by a distinguished panel of judges: Renee Anderson, Director, Saturday Academy Outreach Initiative: Steven Culbertson, President & CEO, Youth Service America; Arthur Fry, Scientist and Inventor of the Post-it Note, 3M Corporation; Greg Hale, Vice President, Design Engineering and Regulatory Compliance, Walt Disney World Corporation; William Warren, Scientist, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); and Dr. James Youniss, Professor and Director, Life Cycle Institute, Catholic University.

When eighth graders Natalie Blackburn, Lisa Fahey, Emily Kahm and Courtney Torres discovered that an ongoing decline in the local bat population could affect the food chain, they decided to take action. These young teens developed an imaginative program to increase public awareness of the true nature and importance of bats, as well as the hazards that could cause their extinction.

The girls conducted extensive research on local bat species, conducted "Batty 4 Bats" Nights attracting hundreds of local residents to learn more about bats, and developed a creative series of lesson plans for local libraries they call the "Bats on the Wing" Traveling Trunk.

"Humans are the greatest threat to the bat population," says Blackburn. "We want to change their ‘battitudes.’"

"Kids teaching kids" is an innovative approach to science education proposed by eighth graders Allison Carr, Jonathan Lew, Haley O’Neal and Skyler Schawe. Their solution addresses low scores on standardized tests taken by local fifth graders and help them prepare for the challenges of middle school science. The program they created may be part of the solution to nationwide concerns about the quality of elementary- level science education as well.

The lesson plans designed by the students target specific educational needs identified in their research with local fifth graders. The curriculum draws the students into science with a creative series of hands-on science experiences led by the eighth graders they emulate.

"We will use the $25,000 Columbus Grant to recruit and train new Science Squad members in hopes of expanding the program not just in Houston but throughout the nation," explains Allison Carr, age 13. "We want to spark scientific interest in fifth grade students across the country," adds Haley O’Neal. The team’s community partner is HU-LINK, Houston Urban Learning Initiatives in a Networked Community.

Faced with statistics that 9,000 crib-related injuries and 54 deaths occur each year, seventh graders Allison Giardino, Nick Marrinson, Amanda Ohbayashi and Heather Walker invented "Kiddie Katcher." The device has a hinged frame and netting attached to the crib, as well as an alarm to alert parents should an infant fall. A system of counterweights keep the crib from tipping. "While working as a baby sitter, one of our team members imagined how terrible a fall from a crib could be for an infant," explains Amanda Ohbayashi. "We came up with a simple device that would prevent a fall if a child escaped from its crib."

The Sanford team placed second in last year’s Bayer/NSF Award for inventing "Pak Rax," an under-seat storage device designed to enhance school bus safety. Pak Rax has been tested on local school buses; the team is pursuing a patent.

For more information contact Karen Lightell, 412-281-2345, kjl@dndigital.com.