Christopher Columbus Awards: News

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

SP PR 98-02
Media contact:  Bill Line  (703) 306-1070  wline@nsf.gov
Program contact:  Susan Chase  (703) 306-1070  schase@nsf.gov

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Atlanta Team Presents National Science and Technology Award to Congress

Homeless Students Solutions Highlight Students' Project

Four students and their teacher from Walden Middle School in Atlanta, GA, who are third place winners of a national science achievement competition that encourages critical thinking, creativity, scientific accuracy and problem-solving, present their project to members of Congress and members of the Washington-based science and technology community.

In addition to winning awards of $4,000 in savings bonds, an all-expense paid trip for finals week to Walt Disney World® and attendance at the Christopher Columbus Academy, the Atlanta students also won the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant, designed as seed money to help the team bring its idea to life.

The Walden Middle School students competed against 300 other student teams in the national Bayer/NSF Award. Three winning teams were chosen from semifinalists in each of 10 regions.

The Atlanta entry came from a concern over homeless and transient students' leaving school because of the difficulties of housing and keeping accurate immunization and education records. The students propose creating a clearinghouse to provide computer access to records to help parents locate, retrieve and store their children's school and immunization data.

"It makes me angry that nobody cares about the education of homeless kids," says Tiffany Blunt, 11, one of the team members from Walden Middle School. "If better records were kept, these students might stay in school."

Blunt, along with Brittany Darby, 12, Elam Hill, 14 and Rick Zachary, 13, want the clearinghouse to include computer access to records, telephones, copiers, fax machines and multi-lingual translators to help parents locate, retrieve and store their children's vital records.

"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 students' work has impact in their local community, and that by working together, they have the power to turn things around."

The other winning teams are from Hyde Park Middle School, Las Vegas, NV (1st place). The Las Vegas students invented a simple piece of equipment-a belt that fits behind anyone on a swing – which could prevent the more than 75,000 swing-related injuries reported each year in America. Second place winners are from Cold Spring Harbor Junior High, Cold Spring Harbor, NY. The Cold Spring Harbor students identified risk factors and prevention techniques, including maximum weight limits that could prevent future back problems associated with wearing too-heavy student backpacks.

"The Bayer/NSF Award turns kids onto science and shows them the important connection between science and technology 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.