Students Offer Solutions for Environment, Energy

Illustrating the importance that young people place on environmental issues, three out of this year's four first-prize winner teams in the Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision Awards proposed future technologies that could help solve energy and environmental pollution problems.

Other winners proposed ingenious treatments for life-threatening illnesses, an innovative preventative measure to the problem of childhood obesity, and a device to make life easier for household pets and their owners.

For their projects, student teams researched existing technologies to conceptualize future advancements in the fields of nanotechnology, bioplastics, genetic engineering, and GPS satellite systems. Many of the teams collaborated with scientific experts across the country while compiling their research. This year, ExploraVision received 4,527 team entries representing the participation of 14,042 students from across the United States and Canada. Students on each of the four first-place teams will each receive a U.S. Savings Bond valued at $10,000 at maturity that may be used to offset increasing education costs. Students on second-place teams will receive a U.S. Savings Bond valued at $5,000 at maturity.

The program challenges students to research scientific principles and current technologies as the basis for designing technologies that could exist in 20 years.

The environmental project winners were:

• A Durham, N.C. team in the Grades 10-12 Category won for its project, "CHIRP: Circuit for Enhanced In-Vivo Regulated Bioplastics Production," which proposes a renewable and biodegradable alternative to petroleum-based plastics that would help usher in a new era of environmentally friendly bioplastic materials with a wide range of household, commercial, and medical applications.

• A Pacific Palisades, Calif., team took first place in the Grades 7-9 Category for its energy-saving project, "The Four-Way Catalytic Converter," which would take carbon dioxide created by an automobile and use it to create electrical energy for that same car.

• A Veneta, Ore., team won first place in the Grades 4-6 Category for the "Wavemaster," a new way to harness the raw power of the ocean as a way for society to enjoy a clean, constantly renewable energy source. The students built a working prototype for use in a fish tank.

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The teams will receive an expenses-paid trip with their families, mentor, and coach to Washington, D.C. for a gala awards weekend in June.

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