Christopher Columbus Awards: News

Embargoed until 5 P.M. EDT
News — October 6, 1998

SP PR 98-01
Media contact:  Bill Line  (703) 306-1070  wline@nsf.gov
Program contact:  Susan Chase  (703) 306-1070  schase@nsf.gov

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Students Present Award-Winning Community Solutions to Congress, Science & Technology Community

Playground Safety, Backpack Injuries & Homeless Solutions Highlight Student Projects

Three middle school science teams will present their 1998 award-winning national science and technology projects to members of Congress and to Washington-based scientists, showing how their projects combine critical thinking, creativity, scientific accuracy and problem-solving while benefiting both the students' local communities and the Nation.

The winning teams are from Hyde Park Middle School, Las Vegas, NV, (1st place), Cold Spring Harbor Junior High, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, (2nd place) and Walden Middle School, Atlanta, GA, (3rd place), and winners of the $25,000 Christopher Columbus Community Grant.

The three winning teams were chosen in June from over 300 student teams in the national Bayer/NSF Award. The winners vied for and won an all-expense paid trip for finals week to Walt Disney World® and $36,000 in savings bonds. One team received the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant for seed money to help bring its idea to life.

"Kids often see problems and solutions that adults do not," said Julia Moore of the National Science Foundation, a Bayer/NSF Award sponsor. "The Bayer/NSF Award recognizes that these students' work has impact in their local community, and that by working together, they have the power to use science and engineering to better life in their communities."

The first place entry deals with swing set safety. Noting that community leaders' solution to swing set accidents-totaling 75,000 accidents per year nationally--was to remove the equipment, the team from Las Vegas' Hyde Park Middle School invented a harness which they called "The Back Belt." That device-made of inexpensive and easily found materials-provides protection against backward falls off of a swing.

Students from Cold Spring Harbor Junior High School used the scientific method to save their backs and those of fellow students. Four eighth grade girls created the "Light is Right" campaign to alert students to the risks of backpack misuse and the dangers from carrying backpacks that are too heavy, not packed properly or are not carried in the correct position.

Concern for homeless and transient classmates deprived of educational opportunities, and in some cases even being held out of school altogether earned students from Atlanta's Walden Middle School the third place award. Through the $25,000 Christopher Columbus Fellowship Grant, the clearinghouse may become a reality. The students want to provide all qualifying students a permanent address by creating a clearinghouse-using computers, phones and information technology-- that would make easy access to immunization and school records, as well as offering communication services to parents and guardians.

"The Bayer/NSF Award turns kids onto science and shows them the important connection between science and society," explained Sande Deitch, director of the Bayer Corporation's Making Science Make Sense program, a corporate initiative supporting hands-on, inquiry-based science education and promoting science literacy.

"This competition is based upon the idea that all children have the potential to succeed and to become community leaders," added Rosalyn Queen, chairperson of the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation.

The program specifically targets a critical age range in science and technology education. Studies indicate that middle school is the point at which U.S. students begin to fall behind their peers around the world in science and mathematics achievement.

A broad range of students was involved in this year's competition, with 60% of this year's entrants girls and 30% minorities.

The 1998 Discover Magazine award winners will also be present at the Capitol Hill event. Sponsored by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, the Discover Awards single out and honor the men and women most responsible for recent technological breakthroughs.

The Bayer Corporation, the National Science Foundation, the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation and Discover Magazine are sponsors of the annual Bayer/NSF Award.