Christopher Columbus Awards: News

News — August 19, 1999

Media contacts:  Karen Baker  (412) 281-2345  
   Anne Mack  (412) 281-2345  


Bayer/NSF Award Addresses Critical Need to Link Youth and Community

Opportunity Offered to All U.S. Middle School Students

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 19, 1999 — Finding more and better ways to involve students in their communities is a critical challenge for the nation. To help bridge the gap, Bayer Corporation, National Science Foundation and Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation are offering an exceptional opportunity to all U.S. middle school students, challenging them to experience real-world community problem-solving by entering the Bayer/NSF Award.

Now accepting entries for the 1999-2000 school year, the Bayer/NSF Award takes students in grades 6-8 through a rewarding process, teaching them how to use science and technology to identify a community problem and develop a solution. The students step beyond the classroom and into the community, working in teams to identify an issue, develop and test solutions and tap community leaders and experts as resources.

Experts say this kind of community interaction can help young people lead responsible, healthy lives and prevent the harmful effects of the isolation that can plague adolescents.

"The Bayer/NSF Award can provide an essential experience in helping young people develop a sense of community and their value in it," says Christine R. Hartel, Ph.D., Associate Executive Director for Science at the American Psychological Association and member of the Bayer/NSF Award Advisory Committee. "It's a virtually unique opportunity for this age group, reaching kids at a time when lessons about self-confidence and their ability to make a difference are more likely to stick."

The program, which has no entry fee, is designed to attract students of all abilities and interests. During the 1998-99 school year, the program's third year, nearly 2,000 students representing 500 teams entered nationwide.

Shining Examples of What's Right With Youth

Bayer/NSF Award teams are shining examples of what's right with American youth. Teams in previous years have tackled a wide range of issues, ranging from environmental protection and playground safety to the education of homeless students, often identifying solutions overlooked by adults. Two 1998-99 finalist teams identified critical school bus safety issues; a third provided a measure of relief to arthritis sufferers.

    • Four sixth-graders from Orlando, Fla., won second place for designing an under-seat rack to keep loose items from striking passengers or blocking pathways in the event of an accident. They identified the problem after one of them experienced a school bus accident. "I'd be so excited to see it go into production," says team member Amanda Ohbayashi. "I'd think WOW, I designed that!"
    • Four eighth-graders from Dayton, Ohio, won the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant to develop their idea to replace rubber door liners with bristles to prevent items from becoming caught – a situation that has resulted in the death of school bus riders in the past. The team is working with school bus safety officials to refine and test its proposal. "Before this competition, we would never have had a chance to develop an idea to save lives," says team member Julie Craig.
    • And, a team of eighth-graders from Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., won first place for developing a device that helps arthritis sufferers open child-proof medicine containers. "We tested it with a lot of senior citizens, and got their input," says team member Greg Musso. "Our idea works!"

Program Brings Dramatic Results for Teachers

"The Bayer/NSF Award is exactly the kind of educational experience needed for middle school students," says Sue Swaim, Executive Director of the National Middle School Association, which has endorsed the program. "It incorporates many recommendations of the National Science Education Standards, emphasizing teamwork, inquiry and real-world situations."

"These kids have learned skills it usually takes years to develop," adds Jo Ella Allen, a Bayer/NSF Award coach and teacher from Antelope Crossing, Calif.

"I don't know of any other program that helps kids make the connection between science and community in such a powerful way," adds Carrie Reardon, a Bayer/NSF Award coach and teacher from Manassas, Va.

An Opportunity for Every Student

To prepare their Bayer/NSF Award entry, students work in teams of four under the guidance of an adult coach. They test their ideas, refine them, and use their own creativity, curiosity and critical thinking skills to develop an innovative solution.

Most students work under the direction of their teachers, who often incorporate the competition into their lesson plans. Other entries come from extra-curricular groups like the Girl and Boy Scouts, 4-H Clubs, YMCAs and YWCAs; the Bayer/NSF Award also has attracted entries from home-schooled middle schoolers.

After judging in April 2000, semi-finalists and finalists will be named in each of 10 regions, and national winners will be selected from among 10 finalist teams in early June.

Rewarding Prizes Motivate Students

The Bayer/NSF Award offers significant rewards, including:

  • Ten national finalist teams and their coaches will receive a week-long, expenses-paid trip to Epcot® at the Walt Disney World® Resort, where they will compete for a total of $64,000 in grants and bonds and attend the Christopher Columbus Academy, a custom-designed, multi-day program that gives kids hands-on experience with the innovation process, working side-by-side with experts in science, technology and education.
  • The national first, second and third place teams will receive $20,000, $12,000 and $4,000 in U.S. savings bonds, respectively. One of the ten finalist teams will win the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant – a special grant to be used as seed money to bring the team's idea to fruition.
  • The winners will be announced as part of the eleventh annual Discover Awards for Technological Innovation, which honors scientists for creative technology that improves the quality of life

How To Get Involved

Interested students and coaches should visit or call 1-800-291-6020 for an application and competition guidelines. Deadline for entries is January 31, 2000.