Curioxity Hands On Science Exhibition Essay

Background on the Exhibits, Students and Competitions at the White House Science Fair

The second White House Science Fair celebrates over 100 students from over 45 states, representing over 40 different competitions and organizations that work with students and inspire them to excel in STEM. A subset of the students being honored today will have the added opportunity to exhibit their award-winning work. More than 30 student teams will have the opportunity to exhibit their projects this year, almost twice as many as the first White House Science Fair. In addition, senior Administration officials and leading STEM advocates and educators will attend the White House Science Fair and meet the students.

Expected attendees include:

Senior Administration Officials
John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Charles F. Bolden, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Subra Suresh, Director, National Science Foundation (NSF)
Jane Lubchenco, Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Patrick Gallagher, Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Stephen Van Roekel, Federal Chief Information Officer
Harold Varmus, Director, National Cancer Institute
Carl Wieman, Associate Director for Science, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Leading STEM Educators and Advocates
Bill Nye, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Executive Director, Planetary Society
Craig Barrett, former Chairman of Intel
Neil deGrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist, Director of Hayden Planetarium
Alan Leshner, CEO, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Michelle Cahill, Vice President of Carnegie Corporation of New York
Linda Rosen, CEO, Change the Equation
Jo Handelsman, Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the Yale School of Medicine

A sampling of the exhibits that the President will see include:

  • Student “Making” and Starting Small Business to Sell his Invention.   Fourteen year old Joey Hudy from Phoenix, Arizona is already a Maker Faire veteran.  He invented an Extreme Marshmallow Cannon and an LED Cube Microcontroller Shield, which he has exhibited at Maker Faires in New York, San Francisco, and Detroit.  He received 2 Editors Choice Awards from Maker Faire, and has started a small business selling the microcontroller (Arduino) shield kits on several websites.  As the World's Largest Do-It-Yourself Festival, Maker Faire is the premier event for grassroots American innovation.
  • Designing a More Efficient Way to Collect Solar Energy.  Aidan Dwyer, a middle school student hailing from Northport, New York, won first place in the American Museum of Natural History’s 2011 Young Naturalist Award for his study of a more efficient way to collect solar energy.  Modeling the natural design of tree limbs which Aidan predicted must serve a benefit for the trees to optimize sun collected to feed photosynthesis in the short, dark days of winter, Aidan worked to devise a potentially more efficient way to collect solar energy.
  • Seventeen-Year Old Girl Designing Targeted Cancer Treatment.  Angela Zhang, a seventeen year old senior from Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, California, won the $100,000 Grand Prize in the Individual category of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology for using nanotechnology to eradicate cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are responsible for initiating and driving tumor growth yet are often resistant to current cancer therapies.  In her research, Angela aimed to design a nanosystem to target drug delivery to these cancer stem cells, which could potentially help overcome cancer resistance, minimize undesirable side effects, and allow for real-time monitoring of treatment efficacy.
  • Teenage CEO Inventing Dissolvable Sugar Packets to Reduce Waste.  Hayley Hoverter, a 16 years old student from Downtown Business Magnet High School in Los Angeles, California, won first place at the 2011 Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship's National Challenge for her idea for patent-pending ecologically conscious dissolvable sugar packets.  Hayley, now CEO of Sweet (dis)SOLVE, started her business as a part of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s (NFTE's) business plan competition. 
  • Improving the Environment One Community at a Time.Isabel Steinhoff, Rico Bowman, Genevieve Boyle, and Mina Apostadiro, of Kohala Middle School in Kapaau, Hawaii, took first place in the grade 6-8 division of the Siemens “We Can Change the World” Challenge, for their household battery recycling effort to collect 6,000 batteries in 60 days.  The team, named 6000 in 60, embarked on a campaign to improve their community’s use and disposal of batteries by giving local people information on the environmental harm of batteries disposed improperly along with providing local opportunities for recycling.
  • Fifteen-Year Old Student Modeling Brain Control of a Robotic Arm.  Anand Srinivasan, a fifteen-year old sophomore from Roswell High School in Roswell, Georgia, qualified as a top 15 Finalist in the 2011 Google Science Fair.  Anand used data recorded via electroencephalography (EEG) from his brain and, after coupling it with the custom software that he wrote, used it to control a home-built robotic arm.  Anand believes that this technology could be put to use for amputees and patients suffering from paralysis and muscular dystrophy.
  • Team of Girl Scouts Seeking Patent on Prosthetic Hand Device Which Enables a Young Girl to Write.  A group of middle school-aged Girl Scouts from Ames, Iowa, including Gaby Dempsey, Mackenzie Gewell, and Kate Murray developed a patent-pending prosthetic hand device, winning them the inaugural Global Innovation Award at the FIRST LEGO League competition, beating out nearly 200 other submissions.  Their invention was in response to the need of a little old girl in Duluth, Georgia, enabling her to write for the first time although she was born without fingers on her right hand.  Their patent pending BOB-1 has earned the girls the Heartland Red Cross Young Heroes Award, scholarships at Iowa State University College of Engineering, recognition on the Floor of the Iowa and the US House of Representatives, and the title of finalists for the 2011 Pioneer Hi-Bred Iowa Women of Innovation Awards. 
  • Using Genes to Improve Farming.  Dyersburg High School senior, Maryanna McClure, made Tennessee Future Farmers of America history by becoming the first student from the Tennessee FFA Association to win the National FFA Agriscience Fair, placing first in Division II of the Zoology event, for her study of Cotswold sheep genetics.  Maryanna breeds, raises, and markets sheep and their fleece and was inspired to do a project to research how to breed the natural color of sheep back into the industry.  The National FFA Agriscience Fair is a competition for FFA members grade 7-12 who conduct a scientific research project pertaining to the agriculture and food science industries.
  • Young Women Rocketing to Nationals.  Janet Nieto and Ana Karen of Presidio, Texas were members of the Presidio High School Rocketry Team that competed as a National Finalist in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) in 2009, 2010, and 2011.  Gwynelle Condino, a 7th grade student at Lucy Franco Middle School, also of Presidio, Texas, is the leader of her TARC team this year.  All three girls have successfully competed in a number of rocketry challenges and have attended the NASA Student Launch Initiative Advanced Rocketry program. 
  • Detroit Students Imagining the Energy Efficient City of the Future.  The Paul Robeson/Malcolm X Academy student team from Detroit, Michigan, competed in the Michigan Regional Contest of the National Engineers Week Future City Competition for the second year in a row.  Lucas Cain Beal, Jayla Mae Dogan, and Ashley Cassie Thomas, all aged 13, were part of a team that won the Excellence in Engineering Award at the 2012 Michigan Regional Competition focused on designing a city around the theme of "Fuel Your Future: Imagine New Ways to Meet Our Energy Needs and Maintain a Healthy Planet."   After being named Best Rookie Team in 2011, the students had to overcome losing their school to a fire.  Despite the adversity and having to merge with another school, the students were energized to take on the Future City challenge again, saying “(Future City) helps me make a better city to live in.”
  • High School Student Developing System to Detect Nuclear Threats.  The Davidson Academy of Nevada student Taylor Wilson, 17, of Reno, Nevada conducted researchon novel techniques for detecting nuclear threatsand developed an environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and highly sensitive system capable of detecting small quantities of nuclear material. Taylor’s system, which won him the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award and Best of Category in Physics, could be used as a monitor at ports to scan cargo containers for Uraniam-235, Weapons Grade Plutonium, and Highly Enriched Uranium.
  • Young Students Developing a Sanitizing Lunchbox.  Sixth graders Ma’Kese Wesley and Isis Thompson and their LEGO robotics team from the ACE Collegium Campus in Kansas City, Missouri researched ways in which they could improve food safety.  Their invention, a UV-light lunchbox, sanitizes food between when it is packed in the morning and a student opens to eat it at lunchtime.  A UV light, which is turned on by a darkness-detecting sensor when the lunchbox is closed, kills bacteria that could make the food unsafe to eat.  The FIRST LEGO League competition aims to engage kids ages nine to fourteen in engineering. 
  • Succeeding at Science Even in Difficult Circumstances: Samantha Garvey, 18, of Bay Shore, New York, attends Brentwood High School -Sonderling Center in Brentwood, New York.  From a field of over 1,800 applicants, Samantha has been named a semifinalist for her Intel Science Talent Search 2012 environmental sciences project examining the effect of physical environment and predators on a specific species of mussel.  Despite personal obstacles, Samantha believes her education will bring her and her family a better life. 
  • Student Designing a Robot to Connect Senior Citizens with their Families.  Concerned with the loneliness of seniors at his grandmother’s senior living center, fourteen-year old Salesianum High School (Wilmington, DE) student Benjamin Hylak of West Grove, Pennsylvania, built an interactive robot, which qualified him as a BROADCOM Masters 2011 Finalist.  His telepresence robot which moves around the center and allows seniors to connect via Skype with their family and friends when they are unable to visit in person, earned him second place in the BROADCOM Masters Engineering Category.  
  • Building an Award-Winning Robot and Learning Entrepreneurial Lessons.   Morgan Ard, Titus Walker, and Robert Knight, III, 8th grade students at Monroeville Jr. High School in Monroeville, Alabama won high honors at the South BEST robotics competition.  BEST teams mimic industry by designing and developing a product and delivering it to market, including a marketing presentation, engineering notebook, trade-show style exhibit booth and robot competition.   Through the experience, these middle school students not only learned the innovation and engineering  necessary to develop an award-winning robot, but the marketing and business  skills that spark true entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Writing a Video Game that Focuses on Saving the Environment.  Eleven year old Hannah Wyman who attends St. Anna's School in Leominster, Massachusetts, won the grand prize in her age group (9-12) for her video game Toxic, in Microsoft's first-ever U.S.  Kodu Cup. In Hannah’s game, which is now available for free on the Kodu Game Lab site, a player must solve puzzles and collect coins in order to remove soot from trees, zap pollution clouds to clean the air, and convince friends to plant more trees, all in an effort to save the environment.
  • Developing a Portable Disaster Relief Shelter. Jessica D’Esposito, Colton Newton and Anna Woolery from Petersburg, Indiana are representing the Pike Central High School InvenTeam, one of fifteen schools selected nationwide.  They won a grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program to develop a lightweight, portable disaster relief shelter, designed to be complete with a water purification system and a renewable energy source to power an LED light, which could be used after disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or tornadoes to house people who have been displaced.

Additional exhibits at the White House Science Fair include:

  • A Mobile Medical Alert Device That Could Save Your Life.  Ada Taylor and Katrina Gutierrez, both 17, along with Greeshma Somashekar, 18, all seniors at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, North Carolina, are members of the award winning Unisecurity team which took the 2011 Grand Prize in the Cyber Security category at the Conrad Innovation Summit.  The team’s product, MedPAL, is a smartphone app that works in conjunction with a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor to notify contacts in the event of a medical emergency, version 1 of which is currently available for purchase on the Web.
  • Designing a Next-Generation Airplane Wing.  John William Voelker and Miraj Rahematpura, seniors atXavier High School in Middletown, Connecticut, are co-captains of the Xavier High School Engineering Team which won the 2011 National Championship of the Real World Design Challenge (RWDC) for designing a next-generation airplane wing that maximizes fuel efficiency and enhances performance. 
  • Developing a Device to Help in the Clean Up of Oil Spills. Caroline “Carlie” Schulter and Matthew Tompkins hail from Marietta, Georgia and are members of the Carlton J. Kell High School InvenTeam, one of fifteen schools selected nationwide.  They won a grant from the Lemelson-MIT program to develop a remotely operated watercraft that skims oil off the surface of shallow water after offshore oil disasters.  In addition to their invention, the team has assisted in the development of the community-based Innovation Center for youth interested in invention, innovation and robotics. 
  • Ohio High School and Middle School Teams Sweeping National Science Olympiad.  Andrew Mikofalvy and Lisa Guo, both seniors at Solon High School, in Solon, Ohio were members of the Solon 2011 National Champion Science Olympiad team in addition to the Solon Middle School National Championship teams of 2008 and 2009.  Kevin Sun and Katrina Mikofalvy, now sophomores at Solon High School, were co-captains of the 2011 Solon Middle School National Champion Science Olympiad team and members of the Solon Middle School teams that took home first prize in 2009 and 2010.  The 2011 teams continued the tradition of Solon High School and Middle School success in the Science Olympiad, qualifying for Nationals twelve times and nine times, respectively. 
  • Research on Patient Attitudes Toward their Health.  Seventeen-year old Manasa Bhatta of Chattahoochee High School in Johns Creek, Georgia, was a Regional Finalist in the Young Epidemiology Scholars (YES) Competition.  Manasa conducted a case-control study, surveying women at a health clinic and found certain personal beliefs had a strong negative influence on the likelihood of patients being open with their physicians and having the recommended screenings.  
  • Exploring Improvements to Cancer Treatments by Overcoming Chemotherapy Resistance.  Shree Bose, a 17-year old senior at Fort Worth Country Day School in Fort Worth, Texas, took top honors at the 2011 Google Science Fair for her discovery of a way to improve ovarian cancer treatment for patients when they have built up a resistance to certain chemotherapy drugs. Her conclusions hold tremendous potential for the improvement of cancer chemotherapy treatment and for future research. Shree has presented her research at numerous international competitions and has been honored as one of Glamour Magazine's 21 Amazing Young Women of 2011, spoken at TEDxWomen 2011, and served as a panelist at Google Zeitgeist. 
  • Studying Sickle Cell Disease.  Prarthana Dalal, now an 18-year old freshman atNorthwestern University in Evanston, Illinois,took First Place at the International BioGENEius Challenge, for herproject on hemoglobin genetics and how sequence changes can effect fetal hemoglobin production in mouse models, research which can be used to understand treatment mechanisms for sickle cell disease.  Prarthana is originally from Leawood, Kansas where as a senior she attended Shawnee Mission East High School. 
  • Middle School Team Studying Environmental Impacts of Chemicals on their City’s Groundwater Resource.  Team “DR. MED” from San Antonio Texas is comprised of NEISD STEM Academy students Jocelyn Hernandez, Ricardo Rodriguez, Nathaly Salazar, and Carlos Zapata, all aged 13.  The students studied the effects that the improper disposal of pharmaceutical chemicals has on Edwards Aquifer, a groundwater resource for the city of San Antonio, Texas.   The team discovered that the introduction of pharmaceuticals has an impact on the pH, alkalinity, hardness, and nitrates in water sources, resulting in negative implications for the ecology of Edwards Aquifer, winning them recognition as an 8th Grade National Finalist for the eCYBERMISSION competition.  
  • Developing A Concussion-Detecting Helmet to Combat Sports Injuries.  Fifteen year old Peninsula High School (Rolling Hill Estates, CA) freshman Braeden Benedict from Rancho Palos Verdes, California developed a low-cost impact detection device for use on youth and high school contact sport helmets.  Braeden’s invention, winning him the top prize of America’s 2011 Top Young Scientist  at the 2011 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, will allow coaches and trainers to be alerted that a player has received a hit with enough force to cause a concussion.
  • Developing a System to Improve Water Quality in Underdeveloped Countries.  Eighth graders Emily Ashkin, Matthew Howard, and Alexander Roupas, all 15, of Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina developed an inexpensive and easily accessible method for improving unsanitary water conditions in underdeveloped countries.  Their water purification system filtered out large particles, reduced turbidity levels, and increased the pH level to a value closer to that of pure water, winning the team the eCYBERMISSION Southeast Region for 8th grade.  
  • Re-Designing a Helmet to Better Protect U.S. Troops.  Eleven-year old Jack Dudley of Stone Hill Middle School and Sydney Dayyani of Belmont Ridge Middle School are members of a Virginia team that designed a military helmet to protect soldiers from traumatic brain injuries on the battlefield due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs).  Both young students have previously competed in national science competitions and this past year won first place in the 2011 Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision competition with their HEADS UP! Helmet. The helmet is a redesign of the standard-issue military helmet and is equipped with bullet and shrapnel-stopping gels and highly sensitive temperature and air pressure sensors to notify medical personnel of the presence and level of brain injury.
  • Designing a Mine Detecting Device.  Marian Bechtel, a 17-year old Hempfield High School student from Lancaster, Pennsylvania was inspired to take on the serious issue of abandoned landmines which are still found in many places around the world and investigated an innovative method for safe demining. Marian’s design could lead to a simple, cheap, and reliable humanitarian demining tool and earned Marian honors as a Finalist at the 2011 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.  Marian also won a second place award from the American Intellectual Property Law Association, a merit award from the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, a $1,000 award from the U.S. Army, and has recently been named an Intel Science Talent Search 2012 finalist.
  • Student Programmer Creating Dynamic Educational Video Game.  Jasper Hugunin, a thirteen year old eighth grade student from Island Middle School on Mercer Island, Washington, developed a video game which introduces players to programming concepts as they provide instructions to guide a robot through increasingly challenging mazes.   This clever design of “Robot Commander” won Jasper the Playable Game, Open Platform and Playable Game, and Incorporating STEM Themes categories at the National STEM Video Game Challenge.
  • All-Girl Team Winning National Award for Solving Community Problem.  Bethany Slayton and Christian Hanna, both 13, along with MaKayla Arteaga, 12, middle school students from South Carolina, are the River Rangers, a Christopher Columbus Awards team from Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina who took home the 2011 $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant  award.  The girls addressed the issue of abandoned boats crowding the waterways, posing threats to wildlife and humans in the area.  The team helped pass a law, assisted with the removal of abandoned boats, and launched a website to provide warnings about abandoned boats sighted in the area.
  • A Winning Robotics Alliance, with Astronauts Cheering Them On.  John Drake of Schaumburg, Illinois along with Sean Murphy of Atascadero, California and Eric Bakan of San Jose,California, represent the Winning Alliance of the 2011 FIRST Robotics Competition Championship.  A NASA Ames Research Center-mentored team, Team 254 which goes by the name The Cheesy Poofs, Team 111 or WildStang, and Team 973 or the Greybots, came together to form the Winning Alliance at the 2011 FIRST international competition for high school robotics teams.  
  • Observing Earth Surface Temperatures, Alongside Teams Around the World.  Huntington High School Students, Ben Jones and Emily Waybright, both 16, along with Derek Carson, 17, from Huntington, West Virginia, were recognized by the GLOBE program for their project examining the effects of cloud cover on Earth surface temperatures.  The project involved students developing a question that data from the GLOBE website could help inform.

In addition to the exhibiting teams, student winners invited to White House Science Fair include:

  • Jayme Warner, 11th grade
    Intech Collegiate High School, North Logan, UT
    Dupont Challenge Science Essay Competition Sr. Division 1st place winner
  • Michelle Woods, 10th grade
    Waubonsie Valley High School, Aurora, IL
    DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition Jr. Division 1st place winner
  • Jessica Steinort, 8th grade
    Scarborough Middle School, Scarborough, ME
    DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition Jr. Division 3rd place
  • Shireen Zaineb, 8th grade
    Milwaukee Montessori School, Milwaukee, WI
    National STEM Video Game Challenge Playable Game – Gamestar Mechanic category winner
  • Kevin Burdge
    Heidelberg High School, Germany DoDDS-Europe, MIT
    DoD Junior Science and Humanities Symposium
  • Elmer Tan, 17
    John P. Stevens High School, Edison, NJ
    Silver Medal winner, International Chemistry Olympiad
  • Ziyuan Liu and Cassee Cain, 12th grade
    Oak Ridge High School, Oak Ridge, TN
    Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology
  • Kyra Smith, 13
    Stuart-Hobson Middle School, Washington DC
    Student Spaceflight Experiments Program
  • Suzan Shalhout, 7th grade
    O.W. Holmes Elementary-Middle School, Detroit, MI
    DoD STARBASE program
  • Priyen Patel, 11th grade
    Sussex Technical High School, Seaford,DE
    Media Award, 2011 U.S. National BioGENEius Challenge
  • Naomi Shah, 11th grade
    Sunset High School, Portland, OR
    Google Science Fair 15-16 age group winner
  • Lauren Hodge, 14
    Dallastown Area High School, York, PA
    Google Science Fair 13-14 age group winner
  • Gavin Ovsak, 17
    Duke University, Hopkins, MN
    Google Science Fair finalist
  • Anthony Edvalson, 13
    Mont Vernon Village School, Mont Vernon, NH
    Christopher Columbus Awards winning team member
  • Cassandra Lin and John Perino
    Westerly, RI
    Christopher Columbus Awards winning team members
  • Abhinaya Gunaseker, Fatima Elsheikh, Lauren Meyer, 9th grade
    John F. Kennedy High School, Cedar Rapids, IA
    National Engineers Week Future City Competition, National Best Research Essay award
  • Audrey Thimm, 12th grade
    Bishop Kelly High School, Boise, ID
    Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam member
  • Travis Ramsey, 10th grade
    Eureka Spring High School, Eureka Spring, AR
    Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam member
  • Baxter Bond, 12th grade
    Tununak, AK
    Alaska Summer Research Academy / MIT Edgerton
  • Eta Atolia, 18
    Rickards High School, Tallahassee, FL
    Intel Science Talent Search finalist
  • Emily Chen, 18
    Brownell-Talbot School, Omaha, NE
    Intel Science Talent Search finalist
  • Tanner Coppin, 19
    Hankinson High School, Hankinson, ND
    Intel International Science and Engineering Fair finalist
  • Taide Ding, 17
    Oxford High School, Oxford, MS
    Intel International Science and Engineering Fair finalist
  • Michelle Hackman, 18
    John L. Miller Great Neck North High School (currently Yale University), Great Neck, NY
    Intel Science Talent Search 2nd place
  • Coleman Kendrick, 13
    Los Alamos Middle School, Los Alamos, NM
    Broadcom MASTERS 2011 finalist
  • Scott Wu, 9th grade
    Baton Rouge, LA
    2011 MATHCOUNTS middle school champion
  • Alex Kimm, 9th grade
    Brookings, SD
    2011 MATHCOUNTS finalist
  • Zachary Farr
    St. Albans, VT
    2011 MATHCOUNTS finalist
  • Arimus Wells, 12th grade
    Fountain-Fort Carson High School, Fountain, CO
    National Math and Science Initiative APTIP
  • Kayla Burriss, 14
    East Mecklenburg High School, Charlotte, NC
    National Academy Foundation
  • Tayo Ogunmayin, 14, and Eva Perez, 14
    Berkeley High School and Envision High School, Berkeley, CA and Oakland, CA
    Girls Inc. InnovaTE^3 
  • Victoria Xia, 11th grade
    Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Vienna, VA
    2011 USA Mathematical Olympiad; 2011 China Girls Math Olympiad
  • Jacen Sherman, 15
    Springbrook High School, Silver Spring, MD
    Microsoft Kodu Cup First Prize
  • David Hayden
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, originally from AZ
    Microsoft Imagine Cup Team Note-Taker member
  • Noor Muhyi, 18
    Las Cruces High School, Las Cruces, NM
    NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing 2012 National Winner
  • Travis Sylvester, 18
    Greybull High School, Greybull, WY
    Wyoming State Science Fair
  • Landon Fisher, 12th grade
    Rockwall Heath High School, Heath, TX
    2011 Team America Rocketry Challenge National Champion team member
  • Steven Colon, 17
    New York, NY
    Posse Foundation

More details on the more than 40 competitions and organizations represented by students include:

  • Alaska Summer Research Academy at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks, works with the Lemelson Foundation and MIT, through the MIT Edgerton Center, to inspire youth in their area to invent. http://www.uaf.edu/asra/
  • BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology),headquartered at Auburn University, BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) is a free robotics program for middle and high school students that demonstrates real-world relevance and exposes student teams to industry practices by challenging them to design and develop a product and deliver it to market. http://www.bestinc.org/
  • Broadcom MASTERS(Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars), a program of Society for Science & the Public, is a new national science, technology, engineering and math competition for 6th, 7th and 8th graders, launched in the past year. www.societyforscience.org/masters
  • Chemistry Olympiad, organized by the American Chemical Society, is a competition that identifies the top chemistry students across the nation. This year, the International Chemistry Olympiad will held in the United States at College Park, Maryland in 2012. www.acs.org/olympiad
  • Christopher Columbus Awardsis a national, community-based STEM program for middle school students that challenges teams to identify a problem in their community and apply the scientific method to create an innovative solution. www.christophercolumbusawards.com
  • Conrad Foundation Spirit of Innovation Awards,a flagship program of the Conrad Foundation, is an annual competition that challenges high school students to develop commercially-viable, technology-based products that address real-world issues. http://www.conradawards.org/
  • Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a premier science competition for middle school students, cultivates the nation’s next generation of great thinkers and innovators by encouraging and rewarding students for their science acumen, curiosity, and how they share that passion through the creative communication of their findings. www.youngscientistchallenge.com
  • DoD STARBASEis an educational program sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. At DoD STARBASE, students participate in challenging "hands-on, mind-on" activities in STEM. They interact with military personnel to explore careers and observe STEM applications in the "real world."  The program provides students with 20-25 hours of stimulating experiences at National Guard, Navy, Marine, Air Force Reserve and Air Force bases across the nation.  http://www.starbasedod.com/
  • DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competitionseeks to increase science literacy among students and to motivate them to excel in communicating scientific ideas. The annual challenge encourages students to write a 700-1,000 word essay discussing a scientific discovery, theory, event, or technological application that has captured their interest. http://thechallenge.dupont.com/
  • eCYBERMISSION, as part of the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program, is a web-based, STEM competition free to students in grades six through nine, that awards teams based on their ability to identify a problem in their community and use the scientific method/inquiry or the engineering design process to propose a solution. www.usaeop.com
  • FIRST Lego Leagueis a competition created by inventor Dean Kamen to get young students interested in science and technology. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League Teams (grades 4-8), build LEGO-based robots and develop research projects to develop valuable life skills and discover exciting career possibilities while learning that they can make a positive contribution to society.http://www.firstlegoleague.org/
  • FIRST Robotics Competitionis an international high school robotics competition run by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) dubbed by its creator Dean Kamen as a "varsity sport for the mind." It combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology by challenging teams of 25 students (grades 9-12) or more to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program a robot to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. The program is one of the five effective programs being scaled by CEO-led coalition Change the Equation. http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc
  • Girls Inc.InnovaTE^3, developed by Girls Inc. of Alameda County, in conjunction with SRI International and TERC and with funding from the National Science Foundation, is a STEM curriculum in which Girls participate in engineering teams, develop green innovations, and present their designs to STEM professionals. www.girlsinc-alameda.org
  • GLOBE(The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) program is a worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program which promotes and supports students, teachers and scientists to collaborate on inquiry-based investigations of the environment and the Earth system working in close partnership with NASA, NOAA, and NSF. http://globe.gov/
  • Google Science Fair: TheGoogleScienceFair, held for the first time in 2011,is an online science competition seeking curious minds between 13 and 18 years of age from the four corners of the globe. In the first year, over 10,000 students from over 91 countries participated, with three exceptional young women from the United States winning.  www.google.com/sciencefair
  • Intel Science Talent Search,a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the United States’ oldest and considered the most prestigious pre-college science competition. Every year, roughly 1,600 students enter with original science projects and the winners represent some of the brightest young minds in the United States. www.societyforscience.org/sts
  • Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science &the Public, is the premier science competition in the world and provides a forum for more than 1,500 high school students from 70 countries, regions, and territories to showcase their independent research and projects for a chance to win over $4 million in prizes and scholarships annually. www.societyforscience.org/isef
  • International BioGENEius Challenge,organized by the Biotechnology Institute and co-led and sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur and Janssen Pharmaceutics, Inc., provides high school students the opportunity to compete for the chance to showcase their biotechnology research to the 16,000 attendees of the leading international biotech industry convention. http://www.biotechinstitute.org/programs/9
  • Junior Science and Humanities Symposium,jointly sponsored by the Military Services and administered through the Academy of Applied Sciences, is a program that encourages students (grades 9-12) to do original research in STEM disciplines by competing for scholarships and recognition. http://www.jshs.org/    
  • Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams, The Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam™ initiative inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention by granting teams up to $10,000 each to conceptualize, design and build technological solutions to real-world problems, the products of which are showcased at MIT at the Lemelson-MIT Program’s EurekaFest event. http://web.mit.edu/inventeams/index.html
  • Maker Faire is one of the premier movements for grassroots American innovation. Dubbed the"The Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth," Maker Faire celebrates the growing Maker Movement by showcasing the work of makers, including students, through events in over 25 cities worldwide. www.makerfaire.com
  • Math Olympiads, established in 1979, stimulates a love of mathematics and understanding of mathematical concepts in students at the elementary and middle school levels (grades 4-8) through regular contests and extracurricular clubs.  http://www.moems.org/contests.htm
  • MATHCOUNTSis a national enrichment, club and competition program that promotes middle school mathematics achievement in every U.S. state and territory through a number of activities including a national 100,000 student multi-level math competition. https://mathcounts.org/
  • Microsoft U.S. Kodu Cup: Kodu, by Microsoft, helps children learn how to use computers while developing useful skills such as problem solving, creative thinking and planning in a fun and engaging way through the creation of games. The competition challenges students across the United States (ages 9 to 17) to create their own game. http://www.kodugamelab.com/
  • Microsoft U.S. Imagine Cupis one of thepremier technology competitions for students ages 16 and up, providing an opportunity for students to use their creativity, passion and knowledge to help solve global challenges and make a difference in the world. Since 2003, over 1.4 million students have participated and last year, over 358,000 students from 183 countries participated. http://www.imaginecup.com/
  • National FFA Agriscience Fair is a competition for Future Farmers of America (FFA) members who are interested in the science and technology of agriculture. FFA was founded in 1928 as a national network to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population and the Dyersburg FFA Chapter is recognized as one of TN’s best and most historic FFA chapters. www.ffa.org
  • National Math Science Initiative’s Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program(APTIP) focuses on dramatically increasing the number of students taking and passing AP math, science and English exams, and expanding access to traditionally under-represented groups and children of military families. The program is one of the five effective programs being scaled by CEO-led coalition Change the Equation. http://www.nationalmathandscience.org/programs/ap-training-incentive-programs
  • National Academy Foundation(NAF) is leading a movement to prepare young people for college, with a focus on industry-focused curricula, work-based learning experiences and business partners, and including engineering and informative technology. The program is one of the five effective programs being scaled by CEO-led coalition Change the Equation. http://naf.org/
  • National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)’s Aspirations in Computing: The National Center for Women & Information Technology is a coalition of more than 300 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profits working to increase women's participation in technology and computing. NCWIT’s Aspirations in Computing is the only nationwide recognition for young women in computing and information technology. www.ncwit.org
  • Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)’s National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge is a business plan competition that helps young people unlock their potential for entrepreneurial activity. Since 1987, NFTE has reached more than  350,000 students and runs programs in 21 states. http://www.nfte.com/what/competition
  • National Engineers Week Future City Competition,a program of the National Engineers Week Foundation, encourages teams of middle school students to work with a teacher and engineer mentor to imagine, design, and build cities of the future. http://www.futurecity.org
  • National STEM Video Game Challenge, inspired by the Educate to Innovate Campaign, President Obama’s initiative to promote a renewed focus on STEM education, is a multi-year competition whose goal is to motivate interest in STEM learning among America’s youth by tapping into students’ natural passion for playing and making video games. http://stemchallenge.org/
  • Posse Foundation is an effective program to bring under-represented, urban students from diverse backgrounds to college and help them graduate. The Posse Foundation started because of one student who said, “I never would have dropped out of college if I had my Posse with me.” Since its founding in 1989, Posse has sent 4,223 urban public high school students to college in multicultural teams of 10 students—Posses – with a persistence and graduation rate of 90 percent. http://www.possefoundation.org/
  • Real World Design Challenge isan annual competition that provides high school students, grades 9-12, the opportunity to work on real world engineering challenges in a team environment. Each year, student teams are asked to address a challenge that confronts our nation's leading industries. Students will utilize professional engineering software to develop their solutions and will also generate presentations that convincingly demonstrate the value of their solutions. http://www.realworlddesignchallenge.org/
  • Science Olympiadencourages teams of students in grades 6-12 to develop their interest in science and technology through competing in 23 events in the areas of chemistry, earth science, physics and technology.  http://soinc.org/
  • Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technologyis a premier science research competition for high school students. Administered by the College Board, the Competition is a program of the Siemens Foundation and was launched in 1998. http://www.siemens-foundation.org/en/competition.htm
  • Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, which encourages students to learn about science and conservation while creating environmental solutions that impact the planet,is the premier national environmental sustainability challenge for grades K-12 and is a collaborative effort of the Siemens Foundation, Discovery Education, the College Board and NSTA. http://www.wecanchange.com/
  • Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) launched in June 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), in partnership with NanoRacks, LLC, is a U.S. STEM education program that immerses an entire community of grade 5-12 students in real science. Student teams propose microgravity experiments for flight in a research minilab. The minilab is provided to the community and flown to the International Space Station with the community’s selected flight experiment. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture. SSEP is enabled through NanoRacks working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. http://ssep.ncesse.org/
  • Team America Rocketry Challenge(TARC), created in 2002, is the world's largest rocket contest, sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the National Association of Rocketry (NAR). It was created in the fall of 2002 as a one-time celebration of the Centennial of Flight, but the enthusiasm about the event was so great that AIA and NAR were asked to hold the contest annually. Approximately 7,000 students from across the nation compete in TARC each year. Teams design, build and fly a model rocket that reaches a specific altitude and duration determined by a set of rules developed each year. http://www.rocketcontest.org/
  • Toshiba/NSTAExploraVision has, since its inception in 1992, involved more than 287,000 students from across the United States and Canada.  The competition encourages K-12 students to simulate real research and development as they study a technology of interest and predict and model what the technology might be like 20 years from now. http://www.exploravision.org/
  • Wyoming State Science Fair(WSSF) is supported by the University of Wyoming and provides a forum for over 300 Wyoming scientists to share their research. It encourages students in Wyoming grades 6-12 to plan, organize, research, prepare, and present a project of their interest. http://www.uwyo.edu/sciencefair/
  • Young Epidemiology Scholars Competition(YES) was established in 2003 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the College Board to inspire talented high school students to apply epidemiological methods to the investigation of health problems and, ultimately, encourage the brightest young minds to enter the field of public health. http://yes.collegeboard.org/
  • Young Naturalist Awards, now celebrating their fifteenth year, are a research-based science competition for students in grades 7 through 12 run by the American Museum of Natural History, recognizing the accomplishments of students who have investigated questions they have in the areas of biology, Earth science, ecology, and astronomy. http://www.amnh.org/nationalcenter/youngnaturalistawards/select.html

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By Amy Cowen on June 25, 2014 5:00 AM

Lauren Killingsworth, a recent high school graduate, already has an impressive resume of stem cell research that may contribute to future treatments for blindness. Out of the lab, she is making a difference in the lives of both students in her community and people with visual impairments. For this Stanford-bound scientist, science is the key to the unknown, and doing hands-on science, she believes, is the key to engaging more students with STEM.

Lauren Killingsworth, recipient of the Ron Mardigian scholarship, awarded by Bio-Rad Laboratories.

Student Science Outreach

Reading about the pH scale and looking and textbook diagrams is not the same as dipping a strip and seeing a visual change that represents the acidity or baseness of a solution. With her implementation of a science outreach program that emphasizes hands-on learning, Lauren is helping excite students about science.

For Lauren Killingsworth, this year's winner of the Ron Mardigian essay contest sponsored by Bio-Rad Laboratories, the process of doing hands-on science experimentation and research is one that brims with excitement and possibility, a kind of magic that often ends up suppressed in traditional textbook-based education. In her winning essay, the recent graduate from Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, CA. poignantly articulates the importance of hands-on science education in engaging students with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Lauren's winning essay opens by capturing and sharing a pivotal moment during one of her own research projects, the kind of moment she wishes all students had the chance to experience. The gap between actively doing science and reading about science is something she has set out to change for students in her community.


Exploring Biomedical Research

In recent summers, Lauren has conducted research at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. "I worked on stem cell research, specifically developing retinal neurons from stem cells," she explains. "My interest in stem cell biology was actually sparked by a lecture I attended at Stanford University when I was little. It was part of the 'Splash' program taught by Stanford students, and I remember being astounded to learn that cells, tissues, and even organs could be regenerated using stem cell biology. The medical applications of this technology were so promising, and I wanted to get involved."

At the Buck Institute, Lauren worked on projects that investigate the possibility of restoring vision to the blind. The "Assessment of Lineage Conversion to Neural Retina Fate" project "focused on converting human fibroblasts directly to retinal neurons, by infecting fibroblasts with viruses that cause expression of transcription factors." Another project involved "assessing whether or not the small molecule IWR-1 can replace the human recombinant protein Dkk-1 in developing induced pluripotent stem cells."


Making a Difference for the Visually Impaired

Outside of the lab, Lauren's interest in eye and blindness research takes humanitarian shape in the work she and her family does training service dogs. "I've been raising Guide Dogs for the Blind since 6th grade," says Lauren, "and it has been a very formative experience for me. It is incredibly fulfilling to see the bond and trust between a guide dog and his or her visually impaired partner, and I feel blessed to play a part in the process."

Service dogs make a dramatic difference in the lives of their companions, but Lauren says that her work with Guide Dogs for the Blind has also inspired her science research on blindness. "While guide dogs provide a tremendous service to the visually impaired, I envision a world where science research can provide medical cures to blindness-related diseases," says Lauren. "I hope to work with the organization Unite for Sight in college, and partake in an international mission where I would volunteer in an eye clinic in Ghana," she adds.


Science for Everyone

While at Tamalpais High, Lauren implemented a student mentoring program between her high school and Martin Luther King (MLK) Academy. Initially, the program provided tutoring in all subjects, especially math. The program has since evolved into a science-focused outreach effort to meet the need Lauren saw to create stronger opportunities to connect and engage students with science.

"Today, the program is mainly hands-on science labs," says Lauren. "Next year, students will be matched to high school tutors so that they can each conduct their own science fair project!"

The program recently received a youth service grant from ABC News and Disney. Lauren says this funding will help sustain and grow the program in coming years as other high school students step into her role and continue the student service program.


A Top Science Student

Like many young scientists, Lauren was a busy high school student. In addition to being a school leader, a member of the volleyball team, a trainer of service dogs, a volunteer at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, a student mentor, and recipient of an MIT Science Leadership Award, she has also been an active science fair participant—the only one, she says, from her high school.

"The science fair has been a big part of my school years," says Lauren. "In 10th grade, I won 1st place at the Marin Science Fair in Life Sciences for my project on decreasing oral bacteria by brushing the tongue. I also won 3rd at the SF Bay Area Science Fair." As a senior, she won the Grand Prize at the Marin County Science Fair (and 4th place in the SF Bay Area Science Fair) for research on development of retinal neurons.

Next year, Lauren will be attending Stanford University. "I am really looking forward to learning about exciting new topics—from biotechnology, to stem cell biology, to multivariable calculus," says Lauren. Lauren plans to study biology, with an emphasis on cell and molecular biology, neurobiology, or immunology. In the future, she hopes to combine her interests in medicine and science research, possibly in the area of veterinary science, a continuation of her work with animals and a career she says she dreamed of as a child.

Building upon the interest in community service projects and science education she demonstrated in high school, Lauren says, "I hope to incorporate service into whichever career I choose—whether continuing my efforts in science education or participating in a program such as Doctors without Borders, or—the veterinary equivalent—World Vets. I am also very interested in global health and development, and I look forward to spending a quarter abroad to acquire a more international perspective on medicine."

The full text of Lauren's winning essay appears below.

Encouraging Interest and Participation in Science: The Need for Greater Autonomy and Freedom of Exploration

By Lauren Killingsworth

I peer into the microscope, eager to discover if my hypothesis holds true. I focus the lens until the image becomes defined: intricate, web-like projections that stem from neuronal cell bodies. I experience a moment of revelation. After weeks of cell culture, it had emerged: the evasive photoreceptor, the light-sensing neuron of the eye. Under the microscope, vibrant gene-expression markers dot the culture dish—evidence that this cell can potentially restore vision.

That moment between a scientist's hypothesis and nature's answer is unforgettable. The process of experimentation—trial and error, questioning, and analysis—is rewarding at every step. That experience, however, was foreign to me until I became involved in hands-on laboratory research. Throughout middle school and high school, science had been presented as a strictly linear subject—one seemingly void of creativity and imagination. My excitement for topics such as DNA replication and cellular respiration was diluted by textbook readings. Labs had pre-ordained outcomes, with little room to manipulate variables or design studies myself. I sought greater autonomy and freedom for exploration: what I believe to be vital elements in any science curriculum.

Last year, when I began tutoring students at a local middle school, I noticed a concerning apathy—and even resentment—towards science. I identified with these students' frustration over the lack of hands-on science opportunities, and I began brainstorming possible ways to spark their interest in science. I remember working with one student, Torrey, who was frustrated by the obscurity of the black-and-white pH paper diagrams in his chemistry textbook. He explained that he had never done a science lab before nor used actual pH paper. Science, a study of hands-on experimentation and discovery, had been confined to textbooks and worksheets.

I set out to bring science to Torrey's classroom, confident that these students would enjoy the subject in a stimulating environment where they could manipulate materials and test hypotheses themselves. I created the Tam High-MLK Science Outreach Program, through which I gained a better understanding of how to best promote interest in science. My program required creativity; I declared my back porch a laboratory, producing steaming geysers of foam as I found the optimal ratio of hydrogen peroxide to potassium-iodide for an upcoming lab. One lab was particularly memorable: upon creating a foaming, exothermic reaction, Torrey was so excited that he asked to repeat the experiment.

In designing curriculum and teaching hands-on labs, I saw the importance of allowing students to experiment for themselves. By providing students with the freedom to adjust variables, they asked more questions and became engaged. Demonstrations with a big "Wow" factor also proved successful. The "Wow" factor: an explosive, loud, or colorful reaction, showed students that science was visible, fast-paced, and exciting. The element of surprise was also important. I found that students were more excited to conduct the chemical reaction when they didn't know what to expect, allowing students to wonder why the reaction occurred, rather than concentrate on whether they got "the right result." Additionally, experiments that focused on science applications in every day life—such as the "Household Acids and Bases" lab—showed students that science was relevant, and encouraged students to ask scientific questions about the environment around them.

To increase participation in science, hands-on science needs to become more accessible, students should be given autonomy in conducting experiments, and students need to feel supported and confident as they enter what some may view a daunting field. Additionally, it is imperative that the science research community becomes more diverse. As a woman in science, I have experienced the gender imbalance firsthand, as one of only 3 women in my 20-person AP Chemistry class, and the only woman in the science lab I work in. This can be intimidating to many female students, and must be addressed—by marketing children's science kits and engineering toys to girls as well as boys, through internship and science programs that reach out to young women, and through mentorship by female scientists.

I envision classroom environments that ignite interest in science by entrusting students with the design of their own projects and by introducing students to advanced laboratory techniques. This can be accomplished by mandating that science fair projects are included in school curriculum, providing students with science mentors, demonstrating to students that science is applicable to everyday life, and—most importantly—emphasizing the idea that the only prerequisite for science is curiosity.

Science Buddies Project Ideas in Biotechnology Techniques are sponsored by Bio-Rad Laboratories and its Biotechnology Explorer program.


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