Agriculture
New Gene Fights Potato Blight
Got Milk? How?
Middle school science adventures
Amphibians
Tree Frogs
Salamanders and Newts
Poison Dart Frogs
Animals
Sea Lilies on the Run
Little Bee Brains That Could
Clone Wars
Behavior
Brainy bees know two from three
A Grim Future for Some Killer Whales
Brain cells take a break
Birds
Storks
Kiwis
Albatrosses
Chemistry and Materials
Makeup Science
Atom Hauler
When frog gender flips
Computers
New twists for phantom limbs
Middle school science adventures
Programming with Alice
Dinosaurs and Fossils
An Ancient Spider's Web
Feathered Fossils
Early Birds Ready to Rumble
E Learning Jamaica
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
Earth
Quick Quake Alerts
Rocking the House
Warmest Year on Record
Environment
Where rivers run uphill
Giant snakes invading North America
Shrimpy Invaders
Finding the Past
Prehistoric Trips to the Dentist
Digging Up Stone Age Art
Preserving Ancient Warrior Paint
Fish
Megamouth Sharks
Pygmy Sharks
Marlin
Food and Nutrition
The mercury in that tuna
Eat Out, Eat Smart
The Essence of Celery
GSAT English Rules
Whoever vs. Whomever
Capitalization Rules
Finding Subjects and Verbs
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
GSAT stars reap scholarship glory
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
Preparing for the GSAT Exam
GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
GSAT Scholarship
GSAT Mathematics
It's a Math World for Animals
Detecting True Art
Prime Time for Cicadas
Human Body
Heart Revival
Don't Eat That Sandwich!
Smiles Turn Away Colds
Invertebrates
Caterpillars
Mosquitos
Mollusks
Mammals
Giraffes
Gray Whale
Llamas
Parents
The Surprising Meaning and Benefits of Nursery Rhymes
How children learn
Raise a Lifelong Reader by Reading Aloud
Physics
Strange Universe: The Stuff of Darkness
Spin, Splat, and Scramble
Invisibility Ring
Plants
Fungus Hunt
City Trees Beat Country Trees
Making the most of a meal
Reptiles
Sea Turtles
Iguanas
Lizards
Space and Astronomy
Mercury's magnetic twisters
Melting Snow on Mars
Older Stars, New Age for the Universe
Technology and Engineering
Reach for the Sky
Musclebots Take Some Steps
Morphing a Wing to Save Fuel
The Parts of Speech
Pronouns
Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Problems with Prepositions
Transportation
Troubles with Hubble
Charged cars that would charge
Robots on the Road, Again
Weather
Watering the Air
Warmest Year on Record
Arctic Melt
Add your Article

On the Trail of America's Next Top Scientists

For a few minutes, all anyone could say was, "Whoa!" Playing with fire isn't an ordinary school activity, but this wasn't an ordinary school day. The students belonged to one of eight teams of young scientists selected from all over the United States. Over 2 days, each team had to solve six 90-minute challenges as part of the 2007 Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge (DCYSC). The science competition is now in its ninth year. Each fall, the DCYSC program staff selects 40 middle school science fair champs to come to Washington, D.C. Working in color-coded teams, students are judged on skills, such as teamwork, communication, and logical thinking. Prizes include scholarships, trips to science camps, and visits to the sets of Discovery Channel TV programs. The highest-scoring student wins the coveted title of "America's Top Young Scientist of the Year" and a $20,000 scholarship. "Operation Green" was the theme of this year's competition. Each activity challenged teams to consider environmental issues that the world faces today. That list of issues is long, says Steve Jacobs, head judge of DCYSC. "We live on a traveling rock [that is] flying through space," says Jacobs. "Our existence depends on a very thin layer of air." But our air has become increasingly polluted with emissions from motor vehicles and factories, as well as many other sources. These emissions contain carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases that trap heat and fuel global warming, which is helping change the world's climate. It's up to the next generation of scientists to start solving problems caused by changing climate patterns around the world, Jacobs says. Competition heats up At this year's competition, the challenges were designed to explore the connections between science, human actions, and environmental issues. The leaping-flame experiment, for example, helped show DCYSC participants the relationship between temperature, pressure, and wildfires. Halfway through the experiment, the blue team was instructed to place a solid barrier around the flame. "The flare will go out or get really, really small because there will be less oxygen in the container," predicted team member Danielle Zapata, 14, of St. Gregory the Great in San Antonio, Texas. But to the team's surprise, the fire tornado grew even taller. "That is like what's happening in southern California right now," explained challenge judge Rhonda Reis. She was referring to devastating wildfires that ripped through the state last month. When barriers, such as trees, surround a fire, hot air rises almost vertically from the flames, causing the cooler air above to drop. The pressure change produces a wind that fuels the fires even more. As part of the same challenge, called "The Hot & Cold of It," students watched liquid nitrogen, which is already extremely cold, turn into a solid after just a small tweak in temperature. Students also discovered that pumping air into a sealed plastic bottle increases the air pressure inside. As the pressure rose, they noticed that the temperature of the air also increased. The link between temperature and pressure is important because both factors drive storm systems and other weather patterns. "Just a slight change in temperature can have dramatic effects" in the world, says Jacobs. Meltdown Though the fire tornado was one of the flashiest experiments in this year's competition, other challenges held lessons that were just as important. And these experiments gave students a chance to get their hands dirty—and cold, and wet. In a challenge called "Water, Water Everywhere," for example, teams tried to figure out how greenhouse gases in the atmosphere might affect glaciers. To model this process, students were given polyvinyl chloride (PVC) piping and plastic wrap and told to build mini-greenhouses. Their goal was to compare how fast ice melted in two worlds: one with a low level of CO2 in the atmosphere, and one with a higher concentration of the greenhouse gas. The purple team built two chambers. The students put a chunk of ice (to represent a glacier) in each container, but pumped CO2 into just one. Over time, the team noticed that the temperature rose higher and the ice melted faster in the CO2–filled environment. Eating snow cones after the challenge, members of the purple team reflected on what they'd learned. "This relates to the world today because there is more CO2 in the atmosphere," said Ambrose Soehn, 14, of Summit Middle School in Boulder, Colo. "That means [Earth's glaciers] are in serious trouble," added teammate Rick Schaffer, 14, of James Weldon Johnson Middle School in Jacksonville, Fla. Watching ice melt, Rick added, is like "watching grass grow." Still, his team's critical-thinking skills helped the group win the Team Award and a science-based trip to Grand Teton National Park next summer. From smashing trash to gassy cheeseburgers Outside, the gray team was sorting through trash. The problem it faced was that landfill space for garbage is shrinking around the world. The team's goal was to calculate the difference in density between a load of garbage before and after it had been compressed with a 40-ton machine called a hydraulic press. While grappling with mathematical formulas and the concepts of mass and volume, the team learned that squeezing trash into a smaller space and recycling are two good solutions to the problem of shrinking landfills. In another room, teams had to calculate the carbon footprint of a common object, such as a car, a fireplace, or a cheeseburger. First, they had to learn the meaning of carbon footprint: the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released during the production, use, and disposal of a product. Then, they had to consider every step that goes into creating something like a burger, including emissions produced by trucks that carry lettuce and tomatoes from farms to fast-food restaurants. Other activities challenged students to think about the environmental consequences of architectural decisions, such as where windows are placed in a house and the energy savings earned by driving electric (instead of gasoline-powered) cars. Lessons learned At the end of the week, DCYSC participants were exhausted, exhilarated, and inspired to make the world a greener place. At the awards ceremony, Elizabeth Marincola, president of Science Service (which helps organize DCYSC), encouraged participants to pursue answers to the many issues facing the world. "For every problem that has been solved today," she said, "There is an infinite number left for you to solve." Top prize, a $20,000 scholarship, went to Erik Gustafson, 11, of Homer Intermediate School in Cortland, N.Y. He is the youngest participant ever to win the title of "America's Top Young Scientist of the Year." Katherine Strube, 14, of Nipher Middle School in Glendale, Mo., won a $10,000 scholarship for second place. And third place, a $5,000 scholarship, went to Ambrose Soehn, 14, of Summit Middle School in Boulder, Colo. At the awards ceremony, Bill Goodwyn, an executive at Discovery Communications in Silver Spring, Md., recognized the entire group for the insights they had gained during the week. "We all need to live on a small planet in a responsible way," Goodwyn said. Referring to the 40 DCYSC finalists and their passion for science, he added, "You've given us 40 new ways to think about a future living together."

On the Trail of America's Next Top Scientists
On the Trail of America's Next Top Scientists








Designed and Powered by HBJamaica.com™