Contact: Ellen Ferrante
National Science Foundation
Kids' Science Challenge winners announced
Over 1,300 third-through sixth-graders competed to develop the best creative solutions to current science and engineering challenges in this NSF-funded competition
Microorganisms that desalt water, a more efficient golf ball based on temperature, and a creative, new instrument, are the award-winning ideas of the third annual Kids' Science Challenge.
The winners of this National Science Foundation (NSF) – funded national competition were announced on May 2 in Kingston, N.Y. Over 1300 third -through sixth-graders competed to develop the best creative solutions to current science and engineering challenges. There were three categories within the competition that included specific challenges, such as: "Super Stuff for Sports (materials science)," "Magical Microbes (microbiology)," and "Sensational Sounds (Musical Acoustics)."
The top winners include Sona Dolasia (microbiology), a sixth grader from Mill Valley, Calif.; Peyton Robertson (materials science), a third grader from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Merrie Benjamin, a third grader from Williamstown, Mass.
"The goal of the Kids' Science Challenge is to show kids that science is cool and fun," said Amy Briskin, spokesperson for the Kids' Science Challenge. "We were especially impressed that two third graders won this year. It showed that younger kids have a lot to offer, when it comes to thinking outside the box."
In May and June the three winners will visit and collaborate with professional scientists and engineers at their labs, workshops and in the field. The winners will also get to participate in various science-related activities depending on what location they visit, such as exploring science museums, aquariums and various VIP tours. For the first time, the teachers of the winners will receive prizes and their schools will receive plaques.
The competition's first 1,000 entrants received free science activity kits. Through these initiatives, the Kids' Science Challenge encourages and supports science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning.
"The competition supports STEM goals by showing kids that science is relevant to their everyday lives," said Briskin. "One of the reasons kids respond so well to these challenges is that they involve problems and issues that they care about. The program has kids learning by doing, whether it's coming up with experiments, using the activity kits, or following along with the winners and doing their own versions of the experiments at home or in their classrooms. They get to be scientists themselves."
NSF-funded researcher Jim Metzner created the competition and will feature the winners and collaborating scientists on his award-winning radio series, Pulse of the Planet, which he produces. Pulse of the Planet is broadcast in over 211 public and commercial radio stations around the world, reaching 415,000 listeners daily. It recently aired its 5,000th episode. Visit pulseplanet.com for more information.
Peyton Robertson, Super Stuff for Sports (Materials Science)
Challenge: "Propose a way to improve a sport using materials science."
Peyton Roberson hypothesized that a warmer golf ball would affect the distance it travels. He will test his hypothesis, working with Daniel Savin, assistant professor of polymer science & engineering at the University of Southern Mississippi. His teacher is Mary Beth Graf of Pine Crest School, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Sona Dolasia, Magical Microbes (Microbiology)
Challenge: "Propose a new way that microorganisms can help the world we live in."
Sona Dolasia hypothesized that microbes could ultimately be used to desalinate ocean water. Microbes, called lithotrophs, feed upon the salts in stones and rocks, and could be used in the ocean as an efficient and cheap means to eliminate the salt. Dolasia will test her hypothesis with Derek Lovley and Ashley Franks, microbiologists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her teacher is Erica Kaplan of Mill Valley Middle School, Mill Valley, Calif.
Merrie Benjamin, Sensational Sounds (Musical Acoustics)
Challenge: "Propose a new kind of musical instrument."
Merrie Benjamin designed an instrument that creates sound by spraying water into a cup, which produces vibrations. She calls this instrument the Water Spritz, and will work with Bart Hopkin at his experimental musical instruments workshop in Pt. Reyes, Calif. Her teacher is Sarah Benton of Pine Cobble School, Williamstown, Mass.
For Additional Information
Visit kidsciencechallenge.com for additional information about the competition and to follow the progress of the winners and their projects. The Web site also serves as an educational resource for kids and teachers, and includes videos and educational games. Kids can vote online for their favorite entries as part of the Kids' Choice Awards, which will be announced on June 1, 2011.