Army hosts national youth 'cyber' science fair
June 26, 2008
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Army News Service, June 26, 2008) - Sixteen teams of students from across the country converged on the nation's capital Monday to present a variety of science projects to a panel of judges in the Army-sponsored eCYBERMISSION competition.
The judges deliberated and selected four national winners, announced at an awards banquet Tuesday evening: the "CFL Quadcyclers," from West Branch Middle School, West Branch Iowa; the "Sun Busters," from the Science Rocks U Club, Whiteface, Texas; the "SBS Bots," from Stone Middle School, Melbourne, Fla.; and the "Snacks 4 Education" team from the Fort Wayne Science Team, Fort Wayne, Ind.
<b>6,000 students competed</b>
Almost 2,000 teams consisting of more than 6,000 sixth- through ninth-grade students from U.S. public, private and home schools and youth organizations, as well as Department of Defense Education Activity schools and DOD home-educated dependents abroad chose to "Accept the Challenge," of the Army's 2007-2008 eCYBERMISSION program, according to Dr. Michael Doyle, Army program manager for the online math, science and technology competition. The youth worked for most of the school year on the projects, with Army volunteers helping as cyber guides.
All finalists received $3,000 in U.S. EE Savings Bonds as regional first-place winners. The four national winners, one from each grade level, will receive an additional $5,000 in savings bonds, while members of the 12 other finalist teams will receive an additional $3,500 in savings bonds for competing at the National Judging and Educational Event here. The weeklong event included a series of educational enrichment activities and events in the Washington, D.C. area.
<b>Boosting science, engineering</b>
Now in its sixth year, eCYBERMISSION is a free, Web-based competition for youth designed to increase interest in science and engineering disciplines. Projects focus on teams finding problems in their communities, educating people about them and coming up with unique solutions using math, science and/or technology.
Participants must choose a Mission Challenge related to one of four categories: health and safety, arts and entertainment, sports and recreation or the environment. Students must develop a hypothesis, Doyle said, and conduct research and experiments to prove or disprove their hypothesis. Each team submits their mission folder, the official write-up of their project -- including photos, survey questions and other supporting documents -- via Internet for the initial virtual judging.
<b>Cyberspace: future work environment</b>
Doyle said until a team makes the final round of judging at the national level, the entire project is presented in cyberspace. "The majority of the process is done online to replicate the world of work these students will be going into. Everything is done via e-mail, the Internet, working teams and chat rooms. That is the environment they will inherit."
Teams are made up of three or four students, who can be from different schools or states, but must be in the same grade and region, which include the Northwest, Southwest/Pacific, Northeast and Southeast.
This year's finalists, one team per grade from each of four regions, worked with team advisors throughout the process, which began in September of 2007 with team registration. The advisors also assist student teams with mission challenge selection and mission folder submission, according to James Law of eCYBERMISSION. He said the advisors provide guidance during project development, but the students put in the work, and develop the projects independently. Students also team with cyber guides who provide assistance by answering questions via discussion forums, chat rooms and instant messaging.
<b>Technology must benefit community</b>
Mission folders are evaluated using four judging criteria, each weighted according to its importance as follows: application of science, math and technology (40 percent); benefit to the community (20 percent); innovation, originality and creativity (20 percent); and team collaboration and communication (20 percent). All eCYBERMISSION judges are volunteers interested in promoting science, math and technology education, Law said.
The Army established the eCYBERMISSION program in 2002, as senior leaders recognized the need to increase youth's interest in science, math and technology as the world placed a greater focus on those fields, Doyle said.
"It's in middle school that kids start to make decisions on career possibilities," Doyle added. "eCYBERMISSION gives students the chance for real-world applications of science, and allows them to see that these are some of the skills needed in the future workforce."
<b>Projects become personal quests</b>
For the participants, the competition became much more than an online science fair.
"We were all really interested in science, and this was an opportunity for us to expand our knowledge," Tiffany Chien, ninth grader and member of the "AquaDucks." Her team, from The Harker School in San Jose, Calif., researched the effects of oil spills and what products would be most effective to clean an oil spill.
Her teammate, Supraja Swamy, said the mission took on a personal meaning for them. "We had been learning about the global impact of oil spills. In November, 50,000 gallons of oil were spilled into the San Francisco Bay, which is just an hour from where we live." The problem was in their backyard, and through eCYBERMISSION, they performed research and established a community outreach program to inform people of the environmental impact of oil spills and prevention and clean-up methods.
All "AquaDucks" members agreed their outreach efforts would continue beyond eCYBERMISSION. "This will never be over for us," said Shreya Nathan and Allika Walvekar. "This has been something we will never forget."
<b>Raising environmental awareness</b>
The sixth grade national winners, the "CFL Quadcyclers," spent an entire year working on their project, which focused on increasing public awareness of toxic mercury content in compact fluorescent lamps and the proper steps to dispose of them to prevent mercury pollution in landfills.
Justin Roth, "CFL Quadcyclers" team member, said he and his teammates would continue their efforts to raise awareness of the problem their project brought to the forefront. "We will continue to educate people on mercury pollution and help create an effective recycling program," he said.
Roth, Tyler Donovan, Tyler Haub and Brennan Nelson even had the opportunity to meet with an Environmental Protection Agency representative during the visit to the nation's capital. Hector Ibarra, a middle school science teacher and the team advisor, said none of the awareness raised would have been possible without eCYBERMISSION.
"These kids are solving problems nobody would ever have tackled because of funding or other issues," Ibarra said. "But through their project, legislators have been working on this issue. The students want to continue working on this project, because they have a vested interest in what's going on."
Other national winners included:
The "Sun Busters," Science Rocks U Club; Whiteface, Texas
Members: Chase Wilbanks, Brisa Brown, Andersen Gruhlkey, Lyndsy Donnell, Laura Wilbanks (team advisor)
The team analyzed magazine to evaluate the media's influence on tanning, tested the intensity and effects of ultraviolet light in tanning beds and surveyed fellow students about sunscreen use.
The "SBS Bots," Stone Middle School; Melbourne, Fla.
Members: Spencer Tuttle, Dalton Stanley, Zen Campbell, Jason Draper, Richard Regan (team advisor)
Wile researching Sick Building Syndrome, a persistent allergic reaction found in people who live or work in places that have allergens in the HVAC systems, the team programmed a robot to travel into an air duct and use ultraviolet light to kill bacteria cells.
"Snacks 4 Education," Fort Wayne Science Team; Fort Wayne, Ind.
Members: Amelia roebuck, Alexandra Dembar, Andrew Reichle, Darcy Whitney, Larry Lesh (team advisor)
The team researched how nutritional snacks affect students during the school day and conducted a series of experiments that provided snacks to students at various times of day and then surveyed their perceived energy levels.
"We are extremely proud of all our national winners," Doyle said. "Our nation is placing a greater focus on the need for science, math and technology, and eCYBERMISSION helps students gain appreciation for these fields through real-life applications of the scientific method."
eCYBERMISSION has awarded more than $5.7 million in prize money since its inception in 2002. More than 46,000 students from across the country and in U.S. territories and DODEA schools worldwide have participated in the competition. Registration for the 2008-2009 eCYBERMISSION competition begins Aug. 1. For more information, visit <a href="http:// www.ecybermission.com"target=_blank> www.ecybermission.com</a> or call 1-866-GO-CYBER (462-9237).