Earlier this morning, President Obama set aside 25 minutes in his schedule between meeting with senior advisers and speaking to the press to view science fair projects in the White House's State Dining Room. The sixteen projects on display came from all over the country and were the work of students who had won a range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions over the past year.
Announced last November, the White House Science Fair kicks off a week of activities that will end with the first ever USA Science and Engineering Festival Expo on the National Mall this coming weekend. Organized by 850 science organizations, the expo is meant to promote the president's message that technological inquiry is critical for the future of America's economic wellbeing.
"If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House," Obama said last year when announcing the science fair. "Well, if you're a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware of software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too."
The White House put out a press release with basic details about all of the exhibits at the fair (see the complete list below), but we've put together a closer look at some of our favorite projects.
Anika Patel and Angela Riggins, both eighth-graders from the Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Seattle, won first place at the Toshiba ExploraVision Awards earlier this year for their work on a recycling system that reuses paper that has already been printed on. The students developed a way to bind organic renewable pigments to the paper so that it could be used multiple times. "The EPPIC (Ecological Paper Printer and Ink Collector) laser printer system ... extracts the ink from the paper by reducing the graphene surface contact area and then reuses the collected ink and paper to make new prints," according to Toshiba's press release. The EPPIC system has its own website, which offers a series of next steps for getting the machine off the drawing board and into the hands of American consumers who are currently using 1.2 trillion sheets of paper in their households per year.
The Inventioneers are a homeschooled team from Londonberry, New Hampshire, who took home top honors at the 2010 FIRST LEGO League World Festival for their SMARTwheel, a special steering wheel meant to combat the problem of texting while driving. The team, all between the ages of nine and fourteen, completed a special program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and are already working on a second-generation prototype of their invention. "SMART stands for Safe Motorist Alert for Restriction Texting," FIRST explained. "This invention is a sensor-laden steering wheel cover that detects texting behavior and emits alerts to bring the driver's attention away from texting and back to the road. Future optional features include data collection and notification of employers, parents, or insurers of the driver's unsafe behavior behind the wheel."
Amy Chyao, a junior at Williams High School in Richardson, Texas, took home $75,000 earlier this year when she won the first-place Gordon E. Moore Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Just sixteen years old, Chyao is working on developing innovative approaches to cancer research. She won for building "a photosensitizer for photodynamic therapy (PDT), an emerging cancer treatment which uses light energy to activate a drug that kills cancer calls," Intel explained. Photosensitizers transform light into other forms of energy, which is critical for this therapy as ultraviolet light, which was previously used, could damage the tissues of cancer patients. The Metroplex Math Circle offers more details about Chyao's work.
A freshman at the California Institute of Technology, Erika DeBenedictis presented at the White House Science Fair after winning another top prize from Intel. From Albuquerque, DeBenedictis built software designed to improve spacecraft travel. "DeBenedictis' research played off the fact that the gravitational influence and movements of planets create 'easy transit routes' through the solar system," explained MSNBC, which described DeBenedictis as a whiz kid. "Plotting a course that uses such routes can help spacecraft move faster and use less fuel. The software that DeBenedictis developed is consistent with NASA's concept of developing 'Interplanetary Superhighways' for future space probes."
Images: 1: Toshiba ExploraVision; 2: The Inventioneers; 3. Intel; 4: Intel.
The complete list of exhibits at the White House Science Fair:
Student Team Invents Motorized Chair for Classmate with Disabilities. Diego Vazquez and Antonio Hernandez hail from Phoenix, Arizona and represent Caesar Chavez High School's InvenTeam, one of fifteen schools selected nationwide. They won a grant from Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop a motorized chair for positioning medically fragile students during therapies and daily living activities. InvenTeam is a national grants program designed to excite the next generation of inventors and problem solvers through hands-on learning, while encouraging an inventive culture in schools and communities.
Middle School Student with a Winning Model Solar Car. A freshman at Central Catholic High School, Mikayla Nelson hails from Billings, Montana and represents the Will James Middle School team with their solar car. Mikayla helped build the carbon-fiber vehicle from scratch, and it won first place in the design document and fifth in the race at the Department of Energy's Junior Solar Sprint, which is a model car race to students with a "hands-on" engineering experience.
Research on Interplanetary Travel that Wins Top Research Award.A freshman at the California Institute of Technology, Erika DeBenedictis hails from Albuquerque, New Mexico and won the Intel Science Talent Search's top award in 2010. She developed a software navigation system to help improve spacecraft travel through the solar system from her research on gravity and planetary movement. The Intel Science Talent Search invites the country's most promising young innovators to participate in America's oldest and most prestigious pre-collegiate science competition to tackle challenging scientific questions through original research and demonstrate the ability to think critically and solve problems.
Young Students Develop Safer Sports Helmets. Seventh graders Jonathan Berman, Benjamin Kotzubei, and Austin Veseliza from Los Angeles' Mirman School won first place for the sixth grade division in the U.S. Army's eCYBERMISSION competition. The team experimented with multiple materials for possible use in sports helmets, concluding that gel rubber remains far more shock absorbent than foam. eCYBERMISSION is a web-based science, technology, engineering and math competition for 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grade teams with teams proposing a solution to a real problem in your community.
Best Rocketry Students in US and Abroad. Jordan Franssen and Nathan Bernhardt hail from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and represent Penn Manor High School's rocketry team. They won both the Team America Rocketry Challenge and the Transatlantic Rocketry Challenge, giving them the title of best rocketry students in the world. The Team America Rocketry Challenge intends to spark students' interest in aerospace careers and in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Winner of Largest Engineering Fair Takes Innovative Steps In Cancer Research. Amy Chyao, a junior at Williams High School, hails from Richardson, Texas and won first place and the Gordon E. Moore Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for her project. She developed a photosensitizer for photodynamic therapy, using light energy to activate a drug that kills cancer cells. The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair is the world's largest pre-college science fair competition with more than 6 million young scientists vying to attend; 1,500 finalists share ideas and showcase cutting edge ideas and compete for over $4 million in awards and scholarships.
Student Develops "Smarter Toilet" That Conserves Water. A freshman at Rome Free Academy High School, MaryAnn Bulawa hails from Ava, New York and won the PBS Design Squad Trash to Treasure competition for her invention. She used bubble wrap, plexiglass, and PVC piping to develop the Smart Toilet, which displaces water inside the tank to reduce the toilet's water and energy consumption. The PBS television series Design Squad challenged kids aged 5-19 to reuse recycled materials by engineering the green invention for their Trash to Treasure competition. The competition aligns with Design Squad's mission to engage kids in engineering and illustrate how it can make a difference.
Students Model New Jet Designs that Reduce Fuel Consumption. Seniors Brandon Baltzell, Carson Barnes, junior Shelby Gregory, and sophomore Carrie Deitz represent Baldwin High School's Real World Design Challenge National Championship team from Baldwin City, Kansas. They had the best design for Real World Design Challenge's task of designing an optimized business jet wing and tail for specific flight conditions. The Real World Design Challenge, providing professional engineering software and access to industry experts, presents high school students with the opportunity to address actual challenges in industry.
Team Invents Water Purifier That Would Benefit Rural Communities. Sonja Solomon, Samuel Snodgrass, and Lloyd Mathilda hail from Oak Ridge, Tennessee and represent Oak Ridge High School's InvenTeam, one of fifteen schools selected nationwide. They won a $10,000 grant from Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop the "Wildcat Water Purifier," a micro-scale hydroelectric generator to purify surface water in remote areas. InvenTeam is a national grants program designed to excite the next generation of inventors and problem solvers through hands-on learning.
Young Students Develop Steering Wheel that Combats Distracted Driving. Tristan Evarts, Jaiden Evarts, and Bryeton Evarts hail from Londonderry, New Hampshire and represent the Inventioneers, the top team at the 2010 FIRST LEGO League World Festival. They won the Champion's Award for creating SMARTwheel, a device to combat the growing problem of drivers texting behind the wheel. The FIRST LEGO League competition aims to engage kids ages nine to fourteen in engineering and focused its "Smart Move" competition on applying robotics and research to today's transportation safety and efficiency problems.
Student Wins with Research on Bone Implants. Raina Jain, a senior at Freedom High School, hails from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and won first place at the International BioGENEius Challenge for her research. She analyzed whether cells adhere better to rough or smooth surfaces of Bioglass, which could lead to improved bone implants. The International BioGENEius Challenge, the premier biotechnology competition for high school students, enables students to research in biotechnology and design an original independent project.
Young Students Develop Aid for Arthritis Patients in Opening Doors. Freshmen Mary Chiang, Gulrukh Shaheen, and Thomas Wiygul from Madison Central High School in Madison, Mississippi won the Christopher Columbus Awards' grand prize for their invention, "Arthritis Magic." The team designed a device that allows arthritis sufferers to turn a standard doorknob by pulling downward rather than by using a twisting motion to reduce the pain of opening a door. The Christopher Columbus Awards challenge teams of middle-school students to enact positive change in their communities through science and technology, and has attracted more than 18,000 students from across the nation to participate.
Students Model a Future City for Earthquake Victims. Eighth grade students Selin Altintas, Nurbanu Simsek, and Madina Khurishanova from Oakton, Virginia's Pinnacle Academy represented Washington D.C. at the 2010 Future City Competition National Finals. The team developed a digital and three-dimensional model of "Yeshilist," an imaginary city that anticipates the accommodation needs of citizens who lose their homes during an earthquake. The National Engineers Week Future City Competition promotes engineering as a creative profession by challenging middle school students to design their vision of the city of tomorrow through computer simulation and a three-dimensional model.
National Winner of Largest Student Robotics Competition. Evan Ostrow, Ryan Morris, Emily Ostrow, Gina Triolo, and Jennifer Herchek hail from Ambler, Pennsylvania and represent Team #341, Wissahickon High School's Robotics Program. They won the Chairman's Award, the highest honor at the 2010 FIRST Robotics Championship for their robot "Miss Daisy." The FIRST Robotics Competition challenges high-school student teams to build robots from a kit of hundreds of parts, competing against 340 teams.
Young Students Model Novel Paper Saving Method. Eighth-graders Anika Patel and Angela Riggins from Mercer Island's Forest Ridge School and won first place at the 18th annual Toshiba ExploraVision Awards. They developed the Ecological Paper Printing and Ink Collector (EPPIC) system recycles and reuses printed-paper and its ink created by binding an organic renewable pigment to a graphene sheet with a large surface area made using nanotechnology. ExploraVision encourages K-12 students to create and explore a vision of future technology by combining their imaginations with the tools of science.
All-girl Robotics Team Wins Middle School Challenge. Catherine Wooten, Taylor Halsey, Salia Wilson hail from Los Angeles, California and represent the Rock n' Roll Robots, an all-girl team composed of all Girl Scouts. They won the Inspire Award, the most prestigious award at the 2010 FIRST Tech Challenge, honoring the team that performs well in all categories and deemed as the most desirable alliance partner by their peers. The FIRST Tech Challenge presents high-school student teams with the chance to design and program robots and compete against other teams in an alliance format.