Toshiba and the NSTA today announced eight national winners of the 28th annual Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision competition, the world’s largest K-12 science competition. This year’s winners have shared innovative proposals to help overcome some of the greatest challenges facing the world today, from healthcare challenges to sustainability efforts to energy efficiency.
The Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision competition is designed to help students develop the skills emphasized in the Next Generation Science Standards, including problem-solving, critical-thinking and collaboration skills. To participate, students must imagine and produce a system or a technology with the potential to solve the problems of the future. Regional finalist ideas were judged by a multidisciplinary panelist of scientists across various sectors of government (e.g. NIH, NASA, NSF), academic researchers, biotechnology scientists and physician researchers.
“For 28 consecutive years, we have been impressed by the creativity that students across the U.S. and Canada have shown while participating in the ExploraVision competition, and we are continually inspired by their commitment to improving the quality of life for people around the world,” said Ms. Ayumi Wada, Chairwoman & CEO, Toshiba America, Inc. “Together with their coaches, mentors, family and friends, these students have pushed the limits of modern science and imagined solutions to some of the world’s biggest, most complex challenges, bringing us closer to making these solutions realities.”
“ExploraVision is an extraordinary showcase of the ingenuity, passion and dedication of so many capable students from across the U.S. and Canada,” said Dennis Schatz, NSTA President. “Congratulations to all of this year’s national winning teams. These students are tackling real issues and envisioning viable solutions that could make a real difference in the world around them. I am proud and inspired by their work and grateful for their efforts.”
The eight winning projects of the 28th Annual ExploraVision Competition reflect impressive ideas ranging from biotechnology applications to preserve the coral reefs, to sensor-enabled interfaces that enable safe play for visually impaired children.
Medical Treatment and Safety Innovations
During a year characterized by threats to global health and safety, it is appropriate that a major theme among this year’s submissions and winning teams’ projects focuses on the prevention and treatment of illnesses, as well as on safety solutions to protect accident and injury.
One team of 11th graders from The Bronx High School of Science in N.Y., shared a potential treatment that would slow the progression of the neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s, which according to the Alzhiemer’s Association affects more than 5 million Americans today and is expected to rise to nearly 14 million patients by 2050. The “Neurofibrillary De-Tangler,” proposed by these students aims to treat Alzheimer’s by inhibiting the hyperphosphorylation of the protein, which is the primary cause of the progression and symptoms of the disease.
A group of third graders from L.D. Batchelder Elementary School in North Reading, Mass., introduced the “Playfinder,” a tool that will enable visually impaired children to safely navigate their surroundings when on a playground with their peers. The Playfinder device would leverage miniaturized LiDAR cameras to build a digital map of the playground surroundings and leverage cloud computing technologies to deliver wayfinding directions to the user to help with navigation.
Finally, a group of 12th graders from the Alabama School of Math & Science in Mobile, Ala., have identified a solution to a rising problem among a growing community of patients who have received artificial joint replacements. By 2030, the total number of hip and knee replacements is expected to grow by more than 200 percent. However, a subset of that population can come down with an infection in the artificial joint —often years after surgery. This group presented a simple, molecular alteration for inclusion in artificial joints that would provide immunological defense within the artificial joints and prevent infection down the line, which they call “Self-Immunizing Joint Replacements.”
Sustainability and Ecosystem Preservation
Climate change poses a major threat to global food security, natural systems and our overall livelihoods. Building on important conversations around climate and natural resource preservation, two of this year’s winning projects suggested innovative, remote monitoring solutions to help preserve natural ecosystems.
One team of first and second graders from Friday Harbor Elementary School, Friday Harbor, Wash., developed the “Get Away! Bacteriophage,” a small submarine machine that can monitor aquatic levels of harmful alga blooms (HABs). If the ratio of HABs rises to a point that would be dangerous to sea life—including fish, dolphins, sharks and coral—the Get Away! device will release phages, which are frequently used in antibiotics, to kill the harmful algae.
Another team made up of fourth graders from St. Joseph School in Seattle, Wash., proposed a solution to support the honeybee populations, which are critical for the pollination of more than 70 percent of the world’s crops. To hinder the spread of Colony Collapse Disorder, which kills 40 percent of honeybees in the U.S. every year, the team developed the “AI Medic Bee,” an artificial intelligence enabled device designed to look similar to a honeybee and operate within the bee hive without disrupting the natural cycle. The AI Medic Bee would monitor conditions in the beehive and be able to dispense necessary medications to the bees within the hive, should it detect signs of Colony Collapse.
Energy Efficiency and Green Power
Higher-than-ever demand for natural resources such as coal, oil and gas are threatening finite energy resources. Several of this year’s national winners sought to lessen humanity’s annual demand for natural resources.
Seventh and eighth graders from McCullough Jr. High School in The Woodlands, Tex., proposed an innovative way to compost plastic waste to reduce the impact of plastic pollution on our environment and convert plastic into electrical energy sources. The solution would leverage a form of algae, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, to biodegrade the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) from plastic bottles and convert the carbon harvested from the process to electrical energy.
A group of sixth graders from Northmoor Elementary School in Engelwood, Ohio, observed an efficiency issue in airline jet engines. Today, jet engines are only 30 percent energy efficient, but airline travel remains a necessity of modern transportation ecosystems. So, to reduce the energy impact of air travel, this team has proposed the development of “Ground-based Airport Runway (G-BAR) Turbines” that would leverage the exhaust air generated by aircraft turbines to turn a turbine at the side of the runway to generate energy, store it in battery cells and leverage the power in daily airport operations, such as electricity needs.
And a team of eight graders from John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School in Aurora, Ill., sought to solve for rising global carbon emissions challenges, creating severe weather patterns and biodiversity loss around the world. Using an approach they titled, “CO2RS: A Cleaner Future,” the team aims to put “carbon scrubbers” from a Hybrid-Na-CO2 system and a dual-engine to convert waste CO2 to electricity and methane, which can be used to fuel an environmentally friendly vehicle.
The eight national winning teams are comprised of a first-place winner and second-place winner from four groups based on grade level. Members of first place nationally winning teams each receive a $10,000 U.S. Series EE Savings Bond (at maturity). Members of second place nationally winning teams will each receive a $5,000 U.S. Series EE Savings Bond (at maturity).
To ensure the health and wellbeing of ExploraVision finalists, their parent, coaches and Exploravision Weekend event staff during the continued COVID-19 outbreak, the NSTA and Toshiba have decided to cancel ExploraVision 28 awards weekend in Washington D.C., scheduled for June 2020. In lieu of the in-person event, regional and national winners are invited to participate in a digital event ceremony, during which winners will have the opportunity to showcase their winning ideas in a presentation to scientist, engineer, comedian, author and inventor, Bill Nye. The digital event will culminate with an awards ceremony where students will be formally recognized for their creativity and accomplishments.
For 28 consecutive years, ExploraVision has helped children to expand their imagination and have fun while developing an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education at an early age. To learn more, visit https://www.exploravision.org/.
For more information or to access an application for the 2020/2021 program, visit www.exploravision.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow ExploraVision on Twitter at @ToshibaAmerica or join the ExploraVision Facebook Fan Page at www.Facebook.com/ToshibaAmerica.
Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision 2020 National Winners
2020 First-Place Winners
Grade K-3: Get Away! Bacteriophage
Friday Harbor Elementary School, Friday Harbor, Washington
Grade 4-6: Ground-Based Airport Runway (GBAR) Turbines
Northmoor Elementary, Engelwood, Ohio
Grade 7-9: Engineering C. reinhardtii to Biodegrade the Pollutant Polyethylene Terephthalate
McCullough Jr. High School, The Woodlands, Texas
Grade 10-12: Self-Immunizing Joint Replacements
Alabama School of Math & Science, Mobile, Alabama
2020 Second-Place Winners
Grade K-3: Playfinder
L.D. Batchelder Elementary School, North Reading, Massachusetts
Grade 4-6: Ai Medic Bee
St. Joseph School Seattle, Seattle, Washington
Grade 7-9: CO2RS: A Cleaner Future
John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School, Aurora, Illinois
Grade 10-12: Neurofibrillary De-Tangler
The Bronx High School of Science, Bronx, New York
Toshiba Corporation leads a global group of companies that combines knowledge and capabilities from over 140 years of experience in a wide range of businesses—from energy and social infrastructure to electronic devices—with world-class capabilities in information processing, digital and AI technologies. These distinctive strengths position Toshiba to become one of the world’s leading cyber-physical-system technology companies. Guided by the Basic Commitment of the Toshiba Group, “Committed to People, Committed to the Future,” Toshiba contributes to society’s positive development with services and solutions that lead to a better world. The Group and its 129,000 employees worldwide secured annual sales surpassing 3.6 trillion yen (US$33.3 billion) in fiscal year 2018.
About Toshiba America, Inc.
Founded in 1965, Toshiba America, Inc. (TAI) is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Toshiba Corporation and the holding company of four Toshiba operating companies that offer a broad range of products and solutions for the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. The four companies, which along with TAI are known collectively as Toshiba America Group, are Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc. (Semiconductor solutions), Toshiba America Energy Systems, Corp. (Power generation solutions), Toshiba International Corporation (Industrial, power electronics & transmission & distribution solutions) and Toshiba America Research, Inc.(R&D).
The Arlington, VA-based National Science Teaching Association is the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence in science teaching and learning, preschool through college. NSTA’s membership includes approximately 50,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business representatives and others involved in science education.