Christopher Columbus Awards: News

News — October 28, 1999

Media contact:  Karen Baker  (412) 281-2345  


Bayer/NSF Award Winners Featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show

You may have been one of millions of Americans to see the three Bayer/NSF Award teams featured on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on October 27, 1999.

Oprah interviewed some of the nation's most outstanding young people -- kids who are making a difference in the world. "Today, we're going to recapture some of that can-do spirit," she told the audience.

Las Vegas Students Keep Kids Swinging

The playground can be a dangerous place -- more than 70,000 kids nationwide were injured last year in swingset accidents, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Many communities are taking a simple approach to eliminating this hazard -- they simply remove the swings. But, an industrious group of eighth graders from Hyde Park Middle School in Las Vegas decided to find a better solution.

As part of their entry in the Bayer/NSF Award, Derek Smoot, Lindsey Franks, Ashley Berg and Lindsey Bean invented a simple-yet-effective device they call "The Back Belt." Made of indoor-outdoor carpeting, a safety strap and clips, the belt can be attached to any swing.

The Back-Belt idea won the team first place in the 1997-98 Bayer/NSF Award. The students have applied for a patent and hope to find a manufacturer for their product.

Tragic Death Inspires Dayton Students

Centerville, Ohio, 15-year-old Julie Craig still remembers the day a local student was dragged to hear death when her coatstring became caught in a school bus door. "My parents went through my closet cutting off every string and strap on my clothing," she says.

Five years later, when their teacher challenged them to enter the Bayer/NSF Award, Craig joined with classmates Tony Liao, Lisa Bales, and Alexis Liebst and quickly identified school bus safety as the community issue their team would tackle.

While the Watts Middle School eighth graders were pleased to find that particular hazard had been addressed, they identified another potential danger: the rubber liners in the school bus doors. Their solution is ingenious: replace the rubber door liners with bristle. Not only does the bristle allow strings and straps to pass through, it is also a cost-effective alternative adaptable to easy retrofitting.

The Bayer/NSF Award judges liked the idea so much that they awarded the team the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant, seed money to help bring the project to life. With the help of the Grant, the team expects to have approval to begin field testing prototypes in three Ohio school districts by the end of the year. The team believes their idea has potential for mass transit, elevator doors, and other applications as well.

Long Island Boys Ease Arthritis Suffering

"We all had grandparents or neighbors who suffered from arthritis," says Tom Corchoran, one of four Long Island eighth graders who won first place in the 1998-99 Bayer/NSF Award for Community Innnovation. "So we invented the Eazy-Zap-Cap to make it easier for people with limited hand mobility to open childproof medicine containers."

Corchoran, along with classmates Nicholas Fiore, Kunal Chawla and Greg Musso sketched out their ideas, scrounged around their houses for materials, and built a prototype of the Eazy-Zap-Cap in shop class. They then took their invention to a local pharmacy, field testing it with dozens of senior citizens who helped them refine their idea.

The Eazy-Zap-Cap mimics the push and turn action of the hands, allowing the user to open any size medicine container without bending the joints in their hands and fingers.

The team has secured a patent pending and is in discussions with manufacturers.