Coaches/Teachers: Tips & Testimonials


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Coaches Comments

Listen to what coaches have to say about CCA on these videos:

Video #1     Video #2

"This competition is the culmination of everything I try to convey in the classroom."

— Rebecca Fast
Finalist Coach
Enterprise Charter School
Buffalo, New York

"It has allowed me to teach as a mentor and consultant, and empower my students to shoot for the stars!"

— Lisa Ahlers
Finalist Coach
Minocqua-Hazelhurst & Lake Tomahawk Elementary School
Minocqua, Wisconsin

"This program has provided an avenue for me as a science and math teacher to show direct connections between all subject areas and 'real-life' applications."

— Jon Hood
Finalist Coach
Bexley Middle School
Bexley, Ohio

"It has meant growth and motivation. It is a very crucial learning experience at a very crucial time in a student's life. Personally, it was very rewarding."

— Russ Tepen
Finalist Coach
Carlinville Middle School
Carlinville, Illinois

"I am very proud to be involved in the program. It is great to see the student's mind stretch."

— Joan Hurd
Finalist Coach
A.M. Kulp Elementary School
Hatfield, Pennsylvania

"The amount of skills the children learned is beyond words."

— Michelle Ruthenberg
Finalist Coach
Ripley's Aquarium
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Bulletin Board
Listen to coaches describe the community-based, team project aspect of the program.

Welcome to the Tips & Testimonials section of the Christopher Columbus Awards Web site. This is a special place for all coaches, teachers, students and parents to share their observations, success stories, thoughts and ideas about their experience with the Christopher Columbus Awards. We'd love to hear from you. If you have an idea, suggestion or thought you'd like to share with your peers, please send them to us at

Tips from a Finalist Coach

"Make it relevant for the kids. Show them that it is possible for them to directly change the world around them. Don't force the project on them. In order for your students to really grow from participation in the Christopher Columbus Awards Program they need to buy into it. Choose teams that are self-directed, open-minded and cooperative.

"DO IT! This is one of the best things I've done for kids in my teaching career. I am able to facilitate their learning in a way that I couldn't come close to in a normal classroom environment. Let the students drive the project. Your job is to facilitate and guide, and while this may not always produce the 'winning' product you can sleep well knowing that your students did it all by themselves. What are you teaching them if you do the work for them?"

— Kendra Larmour, Finalist Coach
River Bluff Middle School, Stoughton, Wisconsin

Tips for Participants

Ways to work the program into your schedule:

Whether you're a teacher, community leader or parent, everyone has a full schedule. Here are a few tips to help you integrate the Christopher Columbus Awards into your schedule:

  • Use the program to fulfill a community service requirement
  • Include it as part of your curriculum or program
  • Use it as a self-direct project
  • Make it an extra credit or extra-curricular project

Ways to work your solution into your community:

  • Set an obtainable goal and workable schedule
  • Decide the best way to integrate your idea
  • Present/announce your idea at several different community events
  • Work with community leaders, businesses and organizations to help you reach your goal


Protecting Your Idea

Protecting your idea is very important. The Christopher Columbus Awards wants all participants to have the opportunity to learn and benefit from their projects. If your project is something you feel should be protected by a patent, here a few tips to help you out while you work on your project and work on obtaining a patent:

  • From the start, keep a written log of the work you and your team does on the project. This is the first safe guard to protecting your ideas. (For more suggestions on how to protect your idea, see the Protecting Your Idea/Project page of this Web site.)
  • Contact your county Bar Association and ask them to provide you with a list of patent attorneys in your area.
  • When you contact the patent attorney, tell him or her what you are working on and what you are looking to do. Ask if he or she is willing to work with the team on a reduced fee or pro bono basis.


Testimonials from Participants

Coaches' Corner

"It is amazing how far my students have come from their initial idea to their final product. They've learned how to do computer programming, talk to engineers, share their ideas with government officials and, best of all, have become confident, passionate individuals!"

— Kristen Haugen, Finalist Coach, Scanner Patrol Team
The Wyndcroft School, Pottstown, Pennsylvania

"As a teacher of the gifted, I have found the Christopher Columbus Awards Program to be an outstanding venue to challenge and honor the multiple talents of my students. Besides exposing them to the tremendous benefits of hands-on science and problem-based learning, these young adults have learned how to become change masters of the world!"

— Marilyn Hamot Ryan, Finalist Coach, Auto-MAT-ic Team
Saddle Brook Middle School, Saddle Brook, New Jersey

"It is by far the finest thing that can happen to a group of middle school students."

— Joan Hurd, Finalist Coach, P.B.S.: Pendulum Braking System Team
Gwyn Nor Elementary School, Lansdale, Pennsylvania

"The Christopher Columbus Awards program offers kids the opportunity to exceed and excel and to show the true value of what they are inside. It's a way to show they can do something and make a change."

— Andon Pogoncheff, Finalist Coach Light for Life & Rescuer Teams
Pattengill Middle School, Lansing, Michigan

"This program has provided an avenue for me as a science and math teacher to show direct connections between all subject areas and 'real-life' applications."

— Jon Hood, Finalist Coach, Hot Rots Team
Bexley Middle School, Bexley, Ohio


Team Members Talk

"I'm writing to say that I think it's great that you support such a wonderful program. In seventh grade I wasn't that good in science. I maintained a B all year but I got a C on almost all of my tests. This year in science I'm one of the smartest people in my class. All my friends ask me how I understand the things that I am learning so well and the only answer I can give them is that I realized how to relate what I learn in the classroom to real life. Now I am seriously considering going into the medical field. I hope you continue to support the Christopher Columbus Awards Program. Thank you for giving me the chance to understand science!"

— Amanda Ross, Student Finalist
Watts Middle School, Centerville, Ohio

"I learned from this whole experience that even kids, when using teamwork, can make a difference in their community."

— Luke Voellinger, Student Finalist
M-H-LT Elementary School, Minocqua, Wisconsin


Parents' Perspective

"What started as an academic assignment turned into a real world experience. The team learned not only that the idea and the science have to be good, but they need to be communicable and saleable by using good presentation and persuasion techniques.

Now the team members are freshman in high school and, entering their second week, must start brainstorming science project ideas. My daughter is taking Honors Biology and her initial approach has been to identify a real life problem relevant to the course. Already she is using what she has learned last year.

As a parent, I thank you for providing this opportunity for students. My only regret is that not all schools give their students a chance to learn to use this approach to problem solving."

— Robin Taylor, Parent of Student Finalist
Manassas, Virginia

"It is hard to define the personal growth this program has afforded our young students, and even harder to express its impact on them. Their interest in science has been fortified, their spirit of caring for the community has flourished and their lives have been enriched through this experience.

Please convey our sentiments to those who contributed to the success of the Christopher Columbus Awards Program. Their sponsorship of such an outstanding program should be commended!"

— Anthony & Barbara Grieco, Parents of Student Finalist
Cold Spring Harbor, New York

We would love to hear from you! If you are a past participant and would like to share some tips and testimonials about your experience in the Christopher Columbus Awards Program, please send your message to