By Dennis Neal, RDECOMJuly 11, 2012
LEESBURG, Va. (July 11, 2012) -- Students competing in the U.S. Army's eCYBERMISSION science competition come from all over the United States. This year, for the first time, one team came from China.
Flying almost 7,500 miles, the RADIANS team traveled to the National Judging & Education Event held June 18-22. It took almost 18 hours to get there, according to team adviser Bhagyashri Chander.
"We couldn't let go of this opportunity because it's an online science fair," Chander said. "We had to write to eCYBERMISSION to ask if our school was eligible, given that we were in Shanghai."
"We sent them [information] about our school and how it's affiliated with the U.S. State Department. That's when they came back and told us, yes, your school is eligible."
Students from Department of Defense Education Activity schools abroad are eligible to compete, Louie Lopez said. Lopez is the eCYBERMISSION program manager for the Research, Development and Engineering Command, the Army's hosting organization. Dependents of U.S. citizens who are home educated outside of the country are also eligible to compete he said.
This was the second time Chander had mentored a team in the eCYBERMISSION competition but the first time from outside the United States.
"The opportunities in the U.S. are unparalleled to anywhere in the world," she said. "When we moved to Shanghai, we didn't want to lose these opportunities. eCYBERMISSION was one of those science fairs where we could still participate in a U.S. based competition…even though we were so far away."
Chander said being so far away presented a few stumbling blocks, but she was happy with the help she received from the eCYBERMISSION team.
"They really worked with us, given that we had a 12-hour time difference for our regional two-minute presentation that we had to make," she said. "We were originally scheduled for 3 a.m. because it was 3 p.m. for the judges here. So we called them and they worked it out so it was 7 a.m. for the judges here and 7 p.m. for us back there.
"The eCYBERMISSION team was really nice to us. They made it seem like the distance wasn't much, they really shrunk that distance for us."
The RADIANS worked on a project they called "Shanghai's Dilemma." They compared produce from local markets and international supermarkets not only for nutritional content but also exposure to heavy metals, pesticides and bacterial contamination. The results of their tests showed the nutritional content to be the same but the produce from the local market to be less contaminated, Chander said.
"There are a couple of nutritionists from Shanghai who read [our] blog who actually have a blog called 'Eating While In Shanghai.' They were saying this is the first time they've seen scientific proof for something they've been advocating," Chander said. "They want to do further studies with us. They want to help us further. So hopefully the project has some future in Shangai."
Chander's team won the regional competition to earn the right to compete at the national event but didn't take top honors. She plans to mentor again next year and hopes the students do even better.
"There are a couple more American schools there which are interested [because] they saw us participating. I got emails from them saying, 'hey, what was that science fair you guys did? We'd like to know because next year we'd like to participate.' So I'm hoping next year we have at least two teams participating from Shanghai."