News & Updates: Team Updates

News & Updates

Team Updates

Team Protons Acknowledged by Mayor

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Left to right: Ashwin Koduri, Sahitya Senapathy, Coach Shri Chander and Rushil Chander of Team Protons.

Team Protons, 2014 finalist team from Frisco, Texas, has received special recognition from the City of Plano, Texas, for their CERT PRO project.

Plano Mayor, Harry LaRosiliere, presented the team with a special recognition certificate for their hard work and dedication in creating their mobile app designed to assist first responders. This is a project that will benefit not only the City of Plano, but cities all across the country.

To learn more about Team Protons' project, click here.

Finalist Team Recognized as EPA Award Winner

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Left to right: Coash Hector Ibarra, Joey Titus, Daniel Burgess and Ethan Trepka, the Chasing Methane team, from Branch, Iowa.

With the goal of reducing methane gas emissions from landfills, the Chasing Methane team from West Branch, IA, continues to work on their project by removing and diverting organic waste from restaurant refuse. The team is using their research in order to advocate for a state bill that would prohibit organic waste from being deposited into landfills.

For their ongoing efforts, the team was recently recognized as an EPA Award winner and is scheduled to attend a recognition ceremony at the White House on August 12, 2014.

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Coach Recognized for Encouraging STEM Participation

Participating Christopher Columbus Awards coach, Amy Steadman, Gifted Facilitator, at Derby Sixth Grade Center in Derby, KS, was recently honored as the 2014 Kansas state "Teacher of the Year" by the Air Force Association.

Amy was recognized by the Air Force Association for encouraging her students to participate in science, technology, engineering and math based activities, and will now be entered for national recognition. She has coached teams for the Christopher Columbus Awards for the last two years, and has had teams place as semifinalists both years.

Congratulations on this wonderful honor, Amy. 

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Christopher Columbus Awards Displays Project at the White House Science Fair

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Left to right: Aaron Kenstaut, Eric Long, Coach Martine Long and Max Huhn, Zero Waste team, from Hockessin, Delaware.

The 2013 Columbus Foundation Community Grant winning team, Zero Waste, from Hockessin, Delaware, was invited to display their project at the White House Science Fair on Tuesday, May 27, 2014.

The White House Science Fair recognizes and encourages the talents of America's young scientists, engineers, inventors and innovators. Over 100 students from more than 30 states, representing more than 40 STEM competitions or organizations, attended the event and participated in the President's speech. Thirty teams, including the Zero Waste team, also had the opportunity to exhibit their projects.

Exhibits were arranged in various rooms in the East Wing of the White House and invited guests were on hand to view the displays and discuss the projects with the team members. These guests included CEOs, TV personalities, Congressional representatives and key administration officials.

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A Bright Idea Impacts the World!

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Left to right: Coach Larry Lesh, Lily Weaver, Emily Zion, Jack Bixby and Tessa Hudelson — members of the 2013 finalist team, The Bright Idea team, from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

2013 finalist team, The Bright Idea, from Fort Wayne, Indiana, have implemented their project globally.

Addressing the problem of little or no lighting in homes of those living in poverty in developing countries, the team identified bottle lights as an inexpensive lighting solution to assist families in need.

Since participating in National Championship Week, the team has supplied the necessary supplies to install ten bottle lights in Zambia, Africa, and has been working with an Associated Churches group in their hometown to inform groups planning to travel to developing countries about bottle lights.

The Bright Idea team will ship the necessary bottle light supplies, along with instructions, to sites where interested groups plan to visit for installation.

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Project Goes Global

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2012 Gold Medal Winnning team, The Pinelands EcoScienteers. Left to right: Anthony Ricci, Coach Stephen Kubricki, Samantha Barton and Michael Cofone.

The Pinelands EcoScienteers, 2012 Gold Medal Winners from Manahawkin, New Jersey, have taken their project global!

Addressing the alarming rate of deforestation in third-world countries, the team brainstormed various alternatives for wood usage. Focusing on wood alternatives, the team designed a low-cost briquette press that utilizes bio-waste products as a new source of cooking fuel.

The team's idea has been widely accepted and they continue to promote the project. Their briquette press is currently being used in several small towns in the Central American country of Guatemala. To see a Guatemalan family using the bio-waste briquette press visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWSN2gS7Og.

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Former Participants Place at First® Lego® League European Open Championship

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Savannah Cofer (left) and Varun Vallabhaneni (right) at the First Lego League European Open Championship.

Former participants Savannah Cofer and Varun Vallabhaneni from Gahanna, Ohio — whose 2012 Christopher Columbus Awards team won a gold medal for their entry The Incrediveyor! — and their team, the Incredibots, secured top placements in two of three judging categories in the First Lego League (FLL) European Open Championship.

Savannah, Varun and their teammates demonstrated their robot's capabilities and displayed their team skills as they competed against 53 teams from 35 countries. Competing in three judging categories — the Robot Game, the Project and the Core Values — the team placed second in the Robot Game and third in the Project categories.

The FLL European Open Championship celebrates science and technology, and the 2013 competition was held in Paderborn, Germany at the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum, the world's largest computer museum, May 7-10, 2013.

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Christopher Columbus Awards Invited to White House Science Fair

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Left to right: Varun Vallabhaneni and Savannah Cofer with Bill Nye the Science Guy at the 2013 White House Science Fair.

Savannah Cofer and Varun Vallabhaneni, members of the 2012 gold medal winning team The Incrediveyor! from Gahanna, Ohio, participated in the 2013 White House Science Fair held on Monday, April 22, 2013.

Over 45 STEM competitions and organizations were recognized by the White House Office of Science, Technology Policy for encouraging America's future engineers, scientists and innovators. One hundred students representing more than 40 states attended the Science Fair where they participated in the President's speech and a select few were also asked to exhibit their projects. Savannah and Varun were invited as student guests for the event.

Exhibits were arranged in various rooms in the East Wing of the White House and invited guests were on hand to view the displays and discuss the projects with the team members. These guests included CEOs, TV personalities, Congressional representatives and key administration officials.

The Christopher Columbus Awards members had the pleasure of meeting several people including Bill Nye the Science Guy, Bobak Ferdowsi — the NASA engineer who worked on the Mars Rover and John Holdren — senior advisor to President Barack Obama on science and technology, just to name a few.

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Former Participants Selected to Represent US at First® Lego® League European Open Championship

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Varun Vallabhaneni and Savannah Cofer.

Former participants Savannah Cofer and Varun Vallabhaneni from Gahanna, OH — whose 2012 Christopher Columbus Awards team won a gold medal for their entry The Incrediveyor — are preparing to participate in the First Lego League (FLL) European Open Championship.

The FLL European Open Championship will bring together 54 teams from 35 countries around the globe to celebrate science and technology. Savannah, Varun and their teammates, together known as The Incredibots, will get the chance to demonstrate their robot and display their team skills. The teams compete in three judging categories; the Robot Game, the Project and the Core Values. The Robot Game and the Project show what both the robot and their teams can do, while the Core Values demonstrates how the team maneuvered through this unique experience.

Savannah and Varun will travel with their members to Paderborn, Germany, to participate in the competition being held May 7-10, 2013, at the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum, the world's largest computer museum.

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District Implements PickUp Patrol

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Left to right: Brian Apple, Rylee Noorda, Bryan Rose, Tony Edvalson and Coach Maria Edvalson.

When 2011 gold-medal winning team, PickUp Patrol from Mont Vernon, NH, created their school attendance software program, the goal was to have one school in their district pilot test the software with the hope of expansion to other schools.

Not only was the PickUp Patrol software program tested, it was widely received and is now in use in the Mont Vernon/Amherst school district's three elementary schools. The team is now looking to expand its reach to other schools in the state and is looking into forming a company in order to market their software program.

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Former Participant Named One of the 25 Most Influential Young People in the World

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Left to right: Neil Bush, Cassandra Lin and Barbara Bush.

Lauren McCadney Photography www.laurenmccadneyphotography.com

Cassandra Lin, member of the 2010 finalist team Turn Grease Into Fuel (TGIF), from Westerly, RI, recently received several recognitions for her work as part of the TGIF team.

As founder of the team, Cassandra was recognized by the following organizations for her and the team's continued efforts on their biodiesel fuel project:

To learn more about the TGIF project visit www.w-i-n.ws/index_files/Page391.htm.

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Former Finalists Turn Grease Into Fuel are Acknowledged with Additional Honors

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The 2010 finalist team, Turn Grease Into Fuel.

The 2010 finalist team Turn Grease Into Fuel (TGIF), from Westerly, RI, was acknowledged with additional honors for their continued work on their project.

Collecting used cooking oil from local restaurants, the TGIF team refines the oil into biofuel that is distributed to local families in need of emergency heating assistance. For their continued work addressing this problem, the team received these acknowledgments:

  • The 2012 Senator John H. Chafee Conservation Leadership Honor Awards (Environment Section)
  • Grand Champion 2012 Future Problem Solving International Conference (Middle Division)
  • Featured as the March 2012 cover story in the Chinese World Journal Magazine (a Chinese language magazine distributed in the U.S.)
  • Featured in the June 2012 issue of Southwest Airlines' in-flight Spirit magazine

The Grand Championship of the 2012 Future Problem Solving International Conference title continues to elevate the team's reach to a global audience. The competition consisted of over 2,000 participants from 11 countries around the world. All participants addressed problems in either future scenarios or current problems in the global/local communities.

The TGIF project continues to assist those families in need of emergency heating assistance. To date, the team has donated $81,000 in biofuel to assist 220 families.

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Former Finalist Recognized as 2012 Life Science Student Award Winner

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Justin Roth, recipient of the 2012 Life Sciences Student Award.

Justin Roth, member of the 2010 Lights Out team, from West Branch, Iowa, has been recognized as one of two recipients of the 2012 Life Sciences Student Awards. The Life Science Award recognizes high school students who are making or have recently made significant and positive contributions related to the study of biology, chemistry and other life science courses.

Over the last several years, Justin has worked on addressing problems that have affected his community — from energy efficiency between incandescent and compact fluorescent lighting, and the adverse effects lead weights used on automobile tires have on the environment, to the relationship between electrical usage and atmospheric pollutants in order to convince business to consider upgrading their lighting to more energy efficient fixtures and bulbs.

Sponsored by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Life Sciences Awards are awarded yearly to a scientist, a teacher and two high school students. To learn more about the awards visit www.ccolumbusfoundationawards.org/lifeSciencesAwards.

The 2011-2012 Winning Teams Have Been Announced

Click here to view the winners.

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Former Participant Named Finalist for the Barron Prize for Young Heroes

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John Perino, Barron Prize for Young Heroes Finalist.

2010 finalist, John Perino, member of the TGIF team from Westerly, RI was recently named a finalist for the 2011 Barron Prize for Young Heroes. The Barron Prize for Young Heroes celebrates outstanding young leaders who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. John and his teammates have started a program that collects used cooking oil from local restaurants and converts it into biofuel which is then distributed to needy families in their community to help heat their homes.

For his efforts with this project, John was nominated for the 2011 Barron Prize for Young Heroes. As a result of this nomination, John and the team's efforts were highlighted in the February 2012 issue of Reader's Digest.

Click here to read the Readers Digest article about John and the TGIF project.

To learn more about the Barron Prize for Young Heroes, visit www.barronprize.org/

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Christopher Columbus Awards Invited to White House Science Fair

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The River Rangers, from Myrtle Beach, SC at their display in the East Wing of the White House. Left to right: Bethany Slayton, Christian Hanna and MaKayla Arteaga.

On Tuesday, February 7, 2012, The River Rangers, 2011 Columbus Foundation Community winners from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, along with Anthony Edvalson, member of the 2011 gold medal-winning team from Mont Vernon, New Hampshire, and Cassandra Lin and John Perino, 2010 finalist team members from Westerly, Rhode Island, participated in the 2012 White House Science Fair.

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Anthony Edvalson, second from left, of the PickUp Patrol team from Mont Vernon, NH, waits to shake hands with President Barrack Obama.

Highlighting over 40 different STEM competitions, the White House invited 100 students from 45 states to the Science Fair. These winners were asked to attend the event and participate in the President's speech, while a select few were also asked to exhibit their projects. The River Rangers were invited to both attend and exhibit; Tony, Cassandra and John were invited to attend as student guests.

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John Perino and Cassandra Lin (over the President's right shoulder) of the Turn Grease Into Fuel team from Westerly, RI listen as President Barrack Obama congratulates all White House Science attendees for their hard work and dedication to STEM education.

Exhibits were arranged in various rooms in the East Wing of the White House, and invited guests were on hand to view the displays and discuss the projects with the team members. These guests included CEOs, TV personalities, Congressional representatives and key administration officials.

The Christopher Columbus Awards members had the pleasure of meeting several people including Dr. Subra Suresh, Director of the National Science Foundation, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Neil deGrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist, Director of Hayden Planetarium, just to name a few.

Click here to view a list of all the honorees.

Click here to view the President's speech.

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Perseverance Pays Off

Team PhotoOur 2007 finalist team, L.O.S.T.: Lights on Sign Technology, from Federal Way, WA , continuously followed- through on their project, and their efforts have paid off in a big way.

The team redesigned the county's current lahar evacuation signs to include red LED lights that will flash during a mud or ash flow from Mount Rainer, helping to illuminate the evacuation route.

After participating in the 2007 competition, the team refined their project and presented it to Pierce County's Emergency Management. At the time, the Emergency Management team supported adding lights to the lahar evacuation signs but didn't have necessary the funds to do so.

The team continued to promote their project, and the county finally had funds to install the first three signs earlier this month, with potentially more signs to be added soon in the Puyallup River Valley.

Former Finalist Named to PARADE Magazine 2011 All-American Service Team

Benjamin Clay McMullen, member of the 2007 Wetlands Education team, from West Geauga, Ohio, has been named to PARADE Magazine's 2011 All-American Service Team.

Clay and his group, Wetlands Education, entered the Christopher Columbus Awards competition, where they addressed the destruction of the local wetlands leading to the disappearance of the osprey. The team's solution was to educate the public about the importance of the existing wetlands, the dangers of their destruction to the osprey population and to enlist the community's help to preserve them.

Named as one of eight finalist teams, the Wetlands Education team's project garnered a gold medal for the 2006-2007 competition year.

Click here to read more about Clay and PARADE Magazine's 2011 All-American Service Team and how they are continuing this important work.

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Recycle Because You Care Continues to Take Science into the Community and Beyond

The 2009 Gold Medal Award Winning Team, Recycle Because You Care, aimed high and hit the mark! The team developed outreach efforts to inform their hometown of Addison, Illinois, of the importance of recycling, with a goal of providing recycling bins to every household. With the findings from their project, a local waste hauler applied for a state grant to purchase recycling bins for their community. Other efforts of the team included creating a public service announcement, teaching a recycling class at the local library and submitting articles to the local newspaper about the community's recycling program and its rules. Just one year later, those recycling bins and bags are filled to the brim. The volume of collected recyclables has gone through the roof, with 768 additional tons recycled this year compared to the previous year — an increase of 63%! The team has recently been asked to share their success and present to the Environmental Committee of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus — an organization consisting of mayors from 273 municipalities in the Chicagoland area. Additionally, the team's efforts were highlighted on the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's website, where their ideas were shared with regional planners. Recycle Because You Care continues to take science into the community and beyond, by teaching other communities how they can improve their own recycling rates!

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Former Finalist Team Member Recognized by the JFK Presidential Library and Museum

Michael Vawter, member of the 2004-2005 Christopher Columbus Awards Finalist Team RoboSwitch from Ohio, is continuing to do amazing things in science! Inducted into the National Gallery for Young Inventors and named one of the top eight inventors in the September 2009 issue of Popular Science magazine, Michael continues to show how Christopher Columbus Awards exposes students to the fun, exciting and diverse world of science.

Michael is currently being featured on the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum website! In celebration of the 50th anniversary of JFK's inauguration, the JFK Presidential Library and Museum is highlighting a video mosaic legacy gallery to showcase people who are contributing to the President's legacy in their respective fields, including Science and Innovation. Go to http://www.jfk50.org, click the 'Legacy Gallery' tab at top right, then the Science & Innovation tab and scroll over photos in the top row to find Michael and hear him talk about what he has been doing in science since CCA. Michael is a freshman studying Neuroscience at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, where he hopes to be involved in vision research this summer, so continue to watch for news from him in science!

Grant Winners Participate in White House Science Fair

The 2009-2010 Columbus Foundation Community Grant winners, Arthritis Magic from Madison, Mississippi, participated in the White House Science Fair as part of the President's "Educate to Innovate" campaign. Click here to learn more.

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Quick Links

2014 Winners List
Judging Process
What Makes a Good Entry?
Competition Guidelines
Contact Us

Other CCA News

The competition celebrates its 19th anniversary in 2014-2015.

Deadline for entries:
March 2, 2015.

National Championship Event:
June 2015.

To date, five teams have received patents for their ideas:

Eazy Zap Cap
Finalist Team, Cold Spring Harbor Jr./Sr. High School, Cold Spring Harbor, New York: U.S. Patent obtained 2001.

Pak Rax
Finalist Team, Millenium Middle School, Sanford, Florida: U.S. Patent obtained 2001.

The Neck Savers
Finalist Team, Cold Spring Harbor Jr./Sr. High School, Cold Spring Harbor, New York: U.S. Patent obtained 2001.

IllumaCoach
Finalist Team, Saddle Brook Middle School, Saddle Brook, New Jersey: U.S. Patent obtained 2004.

Walk N Rest
Finalist Team, Fontainebleau Junior High School, Mandeville, Louisiana: U.S. Patent obtained in 2005.

Click here to learn more about these and other teams who have participated in the Christopher Columbus Awards program.

x2013 Columbus Foundation Community Grant Winner, Zero Waste

Addressing the environmental and economic concerns of landfills, the Zero Waste team implemented a pilot program to test their theory that organic composting can save money and reduce the environmental effects of landfills. The team has several pilot programs underway and hopes to use this data to help implement a law making organic composting mandatory in the state of Delaware.

x2011 Columbus Foundation Community Grant Winner, River Rangers

After witnessing first-hand the environmental and economic devastation caused by abandoned boats, the River Rangers created a website that tracked locations of abandoned boats in their local waterways, created a warning sign for local marinas identifying when an abandoned boat was found in the area and worked with local offices to help coordinate the removal of abandoned boats in their waterways.

x 2010 Columbus Foundation Community Grant Winner, Arthritis Magic

Addressing the problem arthritis sufferers have opening doors, this team created Arthritis Magic, a portable handle attachment that helps open doors by using a downward pulling motion instead of a twisting motion. The team initiated an eight-week-long pilot test using 25 Arthritis Magic prototypes, revised their product based on feedback from that test, applied for a US Patent for their idea, and was invited to display their invention at the first White House Science Fair in October of 2010.

x2009 Stephen J. Moses Community Grant Winners, The Back Straight Boys

After researching the effects of poor workstation posture on the body, this team created four prototypes of their ergonomically correct Ergo-PAD seat cushion for a pilot test, wrote a resolution regarding proper workstation posture and ergonomic equipment that was adopted by the California State PTA, and presented their findings to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

x2008 Columbus Foundation Community Grant winners, the Trash to Treasure team update:

This group researched the uses of methane gas from landfills as an alternative energy source for their community, worked with their local waste hauler, SWACO, on converting their fleet of trucks from gasoline to methane and created an educational community outreach program that is currently being taught at SWACO's facility.

x2007 Columbus Foundation Community Grant winners, the Used Oil Filters: Waste to Resource team update:

This team conducted a month-long oil filter recucling program and used the information to get an oil filter crushing law passed in the state of Iowa.

x2006 Columbus Foundation Community Grant winners, the Fire Escape team update:

This team produced four Fire Escape protypes, conducted a four-week field test and introduced the Fire Escape at the August 2007 Fire Rescue Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

x2005 Columbus Foundation Community Grant winners, the Auto-MAT-ic team team update:

The team produced four prototypes, conducted an eight week field test and introduced the Auto-MAT-ic rug at the October 2006 AARP convention in Anaheim, California.