Judging: Progress Reports

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Progress Reports

Perhaps you're wondering how past Christopher Columbus Awards teams have carried out their solutions in their communities after the National Championship Event has drawn to a close. Good for you — you're thinking ahead with confidence! Since we like nothing more than a positive spirit, we're pleased to present these four progress reports, proof that a hard-working, dedicated team can accomplish extraordinary goals.

Recycle Because You Care

Coach:
Dawn O'Brien
Community:
Addison, Illinois
Status Achieved:
Gold Medal Winner
Problem:
Fewer than one quarter of households in the community are recycling.
Solution:
Develop a recycling awareness program to increase recycling activity.

The Recycle Because You Care team began making their solution a reality in their community even before their trip to Walt Disney World for National Championship Week in June 2009. They lent the findings from their project, which demonstrated that households will recycle if made aware of available recycling programs, to a local waste hauler to apply for a $60,000 state grant for recycling bins for the community. The waste hauler won the grant, and in September 2009, the team members helped with the distribution of the bins. The team also promoted recycling at local community days and produced a public service announcement that aired on a local cable channel to further educate residents about participating in the recycling program. Thanks to the team's efforts, the 2010 recycling volume increased 63% over the previous year. It appears the trend is continuing to improve, with the most recent quarter showing an increase of 89% over the same quarter in 2009. The team members were recognized for their accomplishments in April 2010, when they were awarded the President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). The team traveled to the White House to receive the award from President Obama, who also posed for a photograph with the team.

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L.O.S.T.: Lights On Sign Technology

Coach:
Sharon Gentry
Community:
Federal Way, Washington
Status Achieved:
Finalist
Problem:
Evacuation signs aren't visible enough in the event of a volcanic eruption at Mt. Rainier.
Solution:
Equip signs with flashing LED lights, leading evacuees to safety.

After National Championship Week, the L.O.S.T.: Lights On Sign Technology team continued to modify and refine its lighted sign design. The team contacted a lawyer, started the process of applying for a U.S. Patent, and worked with a local manufacturer to produce the signs. In January 2012, the Pierce County Council installed three L.O.S.T. signs in Orting, Washington, and they are considering adding more signs throughout the Puyallup River Valley in the near future.

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Auto-MAT-ic

Coach:
Marilyn Hamot Ryan
Community:
Saddle Brook, New Jersey
Status Achieved:
Columbus Foundation Community Grant Winner
Problem:
Injuries sustained by senior citizens following a fall in a darkened room.
Solution:
A mat that triggers a lamp to light when a person steps on it.

The Auto-MAT-ic team produced four prototypes of their safety mat following National Championship Week, and conducted an eight-week field test in the community. They used their findings to revise the design, creating a wireless rug. The team members then introduced the Auto-MAT-ic to the staff of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and later presented it to the public at the AARP National Convention in Anaheim, California, in October 2006. Currently the team hopes to self-manufacture the Auto-MAT-ic for sale.

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Walk N' Rest

Coach:
Diane Rabalais
Community:
Mandeville, Louisiana
Status Achieved:
Second-Place Winner
Problem:
Poorly designed walkers can lead to exacerbation of existing medical conditions.
Solution:
A walker that provides a seat for rest and lighting for improved visibility.

Inspired by their second-place win at National Championship Week, the members of the Walk N' Rest team decided to take their winning idea to the next level and apply for a U.S. Patent. They successfully obtained a Patent for their walker design in 2005, joining four other Christopher Columbus Awards teams that have secured Patents for their ideas — Eazy Zap Cap (1999 team from Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.; obtained Patent in 2001), Pak Rax (1999 team from Sanford, Fl.; obtained Patent in 2001), The Neck Savers (2000 team from Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.; obtained Patent in 2001), and IllumaCoach (2001 team from Saddle Brook, N.J.; obtained Patent in 2004).

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Pak-Rax Storage System Reduces Hazards
During School Bus Accidents

Coach:
Vera DeLoach
Community:
Sanford, Florida
Status Achieved:
Second-Place Winner
Problem:
In a school bus accident, loose book bags, purses and instrument cases can become flying projectiles that can injure and/or block emergency exits.
Solution:
Pak-Rax, an under-seat storage system that keeps book bags safely stowed away, helping to prevent additional hazards in the event of an accident.

Determined to bring their idea to the public, the team traveled to Tallahassee in November 1999 to meet with the Florida Governor's Office, the Commissioner of Education and the Secretary of Transportation, gaining support for their idea and the need to address the safety hazard that loose objects present on school buses. In December 1999, Pak-Rax was installed on four Seminole County, Fla., school buses for field testing. The team will soon incorporate a business, Pak-Rax. In 2000, the team submitted another entry to the competition that was again selected as a finalist.

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Saving Their Prairie Heritage

Coach:
Ginger Granger
Community:
Carlinville, Illinois
Status Achieved:
Finalist
Problem:
Over the years, millions of acres of prairie land have been lost to farming and development.
Solution:
Raise money to purchase and preserve a tract of prairie land.

Beginning in June 1998, the team worked tirelessly to strengthen local support for the creation of a preserve where native prairie grasses and indigenous creatures could flourish, and students could study and experience the prairie habitat. Their dreams were realized in September 1999 when they dedicated their "Prairie Restoration Area," a 10-acre plot that, together with other students and local residents, they have secured, cleared and planted with native plants.

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Lot Environmentalists

Coach:
Larry Lesh
Community:
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Status Achieved:
Participating Team
Problem:
An empty lot near the school is an eyesore.
Solution:
Develop the land into a park for students and neighborhood residents to enjoy.

Even though this team didn't place in the competition, the team members decided to pursue their idea on their own. Beginning in September 1998, the team began the nearly three-year process of developing a park for the school and community. First, they obtained permission from the Fort Wayne School Board to commence the project. Then, an attorney drew up a lease between the school system and the owner of the land. To raise funds, the team wrote grants and sold engraved bricks, which now form part of the park walkways. More than 30 organizations and individuals, including Boy Scouts, local politicians, landscapers, architects, surveyors, contractors and others, volunteered labor, services and supplies for the project. An alumna of the school donated a large sculpture, and a local artist made, donated and installed a sundial. "Summit Environmental Park" was officially dedicated on May 10, 2000. It is maintained for most of the year by the school's Landscape Design class, which is part of the district's Career Education program.

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School Courtyard

Coach:
Ginger Granger
Community:
Allentown, New Jersey
Status Achieved:
First-Place Winner
Problem:
The school courtyard went unfinished due to a lack of building funds.
Solution:
Develop the courtyard into a functional classroom setting.

After National Championship Week, the team promptly set to work to complete the courtyard, which was dedicated in spring 1998. A school-wide contest was held to name the area; the winning selection was "The Learning Nature Center." Science classes use the courtyard each year to study concepts such as ecosystems, composting, populations and solar energy, among others. The Learning Nature Center is also opened up for lunch occasionally as a privilege for eighth-graders. The Courtyard Crew, a student club, convenes three times a week to mulch, weed, prune, plant and otherwise maintain the area. The school also coordinates with the community's Childwatch Program so that kids in the program, along with an adult chaperone, can enjoy the area and help out with maintenance. Community residents are quick to lend a hand whenever necessary — most recently replenishing the pond's fish supply following a stork attack. A local nursery donated a cherry tree in spring 2000, and the Girl Scouts have adopted a section and filled it with geraniums and local shells. At fall harvest, the Learning Nature Center is decorated for the season with scarecrows, bales of hay, gourds, pumpkins and mums. Produce from the garden beds, including cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers, are shared with school staff and students' families.

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