ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (June 28, 2010) -- Sixteen teams of regional eCYBERMISSION winners were on edge, about to hyperventilate as they waited for the national winners to be announced June 25.
"Just by being here you are already winners," Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, commander, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, assured them.
Indeed, the 16 teams of middle school students - from grades six to nine -- had already navigated the rigors of regional competition and made it to the national finals. They had already won a national competition medallion and each had already won $6,500 in U.S. Savings Bonds.
It was now the moment they had all been waiting for.
The eCYBERMISSION program is managed by Justice's headquarters, U.S. Army RDECOM. Regional competitions are conducted wholly in cyberspace, via the Internet, which, in part, accounts for the name of the program.
The teams had made it to the final stage of the U.S. Army's scholarship program that promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. They were now physically confronting the "best of the best" from schools all across America.
It was a challenge that made breathing difficult.
"The national sixth-grade winners ... are ... The Hardheads!" announced Bob DiMichele, the evening's master of ceremonies.
Overjoyed and unable to contain themselves, The Hardheads -- Jonathan Berman, Benjamin Kotzubei, Austin Veseliza and team advisor Deborah Beckman -- from The Mirman School, Beverly Hills, Calif., all did a little shrieking and lot of happy dancing and hand waving at their table at Baltimore's Hyatt Regency Hotel.
"You have to come up here," Justice said, directing them to the stage. Once there, the general placed a winner's medallion around their neck and presented their team advisor a commemorative trophy. Each student also received a $1,500 U.S. Savings Bonds to use toward future education.
The Hardheads project was to experiment with multiple materials for possible use in sports helmets in hopes of decreasing the number of concussions and head injuries in the United States.
Seventh-grade winners were The Wavemasters - Tucker Barnes, Connor Magid, Steven Parker and team advisor Scottie Barnes -- from Fern Ridge Middle School, Veneta, Ore. They were recognized for trying to find a source of clean energy as they attempted to harness wave power and convert it into electricity using copper coil and a magnet.
Eighth-grade winners were the Landroids - Stanley Cheung, Gage Farestad, Brian Lee, Karlin Yeh and team advisor John Yeh - from Livingston Robotics Club, Livingston, N.J. Their project hoped to decrease the number of vehicle-animal collisions by creating a device that would detect deer on the roadway and alert drivers of their presence. They conducted experiments on whether deer fur could absorb certain frequencies from car tire noise, and tested the use of passive sonar theory.
Ninth-grade winners were Chocolate Addiction - Melanie Bean, Megan Crumb, Berenice Cortez, Rosemary Murray and team advisor Karensa Wright - from Seminole Ridge High School, Loxahatchee, Fla. The team investigated how makeup damages the skin when it has been exposed to independent variables such as heat or water. They measured bacteria growth in makeup products.
The eCYBERMISSION National Judging and Education Week wasn't all about competition. The finalists enjoyed a week of fun-filled tours and entertainment.
They visited the environmental program at Aberdeen Proving Ground and participated in an experiment in an Army laboratory at the Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center. They went to a Baltimore Orioles baseball game at Camden Yard and took a bus tour of Washington, D.C.
The teams enjoyed getting to know their competition, too.
"I really enjoyed being here this week without my parents," said Kiyo Keanini, a ninth grader from Team No_Kr (which means No Kryptonite), from Honolulu, Hawaii.
"Don't get me wrong, I love my parents. But it's trusting of them to allow me to take part in an event like this, and to meet other kids from all over the country. It's just really cool being here," Keanini added.
No_Kr, from Moanalua High School, in Honolulu, traveled the greatest distance to attend the national finals. The team included advisor Theresa Nishite and other members: Jody Yafuso, Charvis Bush, Kai Tachino. No_Kr was the winner of the Southwest/Pacific region.
The week only became stressful during the final two days as the teams set up their displays and presented their projects to a panel of national judges.
"I am simply amazed at the talent you all possess," Gary Martin, executive deputy to the commanding general, RDECOM, told the students prior to the national showcase, when their stars really started to shine. They presented their projects for all to see, including other teams and team advisors and all the moms and dads who made the trip to Baltimore.
Other regional winners presenting at the national finals were:
Northeast Region: Get Mugged, All Saints Regional Catholic School, Manahawkin, N.J.
Team Advisor: Barbara Amato, Team Members: Alexandra Jones-Twaddell, Shannon MacMaster, Sean Nauta, Jenna Tompkins
Northwest Region: Notifiers, Learning Without Limits, West Branch, Iowa
Team Advisor: Hector Ibarra, Team Members: Linzee Espensen, Taylor Jones, Emma O'Hara, Corinda Wolfram
Southeast Region: Mighty Peaches, Charlotte Latin School, Charlotte, N.C.
Team Advisor: Sharon Oats, Team Members: Melanie Gamble, Hayley Hammond, Emma Haseley, Robert Salisbury
Northeast Region: Shore Storm Stoppers, Saint Dominic Elementary School, Brick, N.J.
Team Advisor: Joanne Arnold, Team Members: Danielle DeFlores, Catherine Goodyear, Shannon McMahon, Christina Vassalo
Southeast Region: Team Phosphogypsum, Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, Lakeland, Fla.
Team Advisor: Debbie Viertel, Team Members: Lindsey Brown, Annika Mulaney, Abhinav Venigalla
Southwest/Pacific Region: Sugar Sheriffs, Science Rocks U, Whiteface, Texas
Team Advisor: Laura Wilbanks, Team Members: Michael Funk, Jessica Lawson, Anna Wiebe, Madison Wilbanks
Northwest Region: Reading Doctors, Learning Without Limits, West Branch, Iowa
Team Advisor: Hector Ibarra, Team Members: Emily Corr, Kara Rex, Nathan Juels, Ryan O'Neil
Southeast Region: Strawberry Alliance, Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, Lakeland, Fla.
Team Advisor: Debbie Viertel, Team Members: Taylor Daugherty, Joey White, Kelsey Curlutu, Rami Harb
Southwest/Pacific Region: Dust Busters, The Harker School, San Jose, Calif.
Team Advisor: Vandana Kadam, Team Members: Allen Cheng, Daniel Pak, Albert Chu, Sharon Babu
Northeast Region: RoslynJPA, Roslyn High School, Roslyn Heights, N.Y.
Team Advisor: Allyson Weseley, Team Members: Arshia Aalami Harandi, Jae Hyung Jun, Paul Rogofsky
Northwest Region: Team SWOOSH, Central Valley High School, Spokane Valley, Wash.
Team Advisor: Lori Buratto, Team Members: Carly Wolf, Kathryn Weisbeck, Jaylor Butters, Aidan Dowling