Olivia Smith Donovan, a 4th grade student at Claymont Elementary School in Claymont, DE, has won the Grand Prize for Bio Inspired Design in the national Kids’ Science Challenge for 3rd-to-6th graders. Her entry topped those of more than 1,600 other kids.
Sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the contest challenges elementary students to propose problems and experiments for a select group of scientists and engineers to solve. Olivia, watched seeds twirl around as they fell from helicopter (maple) trees and wondered if this motion could be used to drop emergency parcels and personnel from great heights.
To solve this problem, she needs to determine if a twirling descent will work for packages, and if people would get too nauseous to be dropped from planes in this manner. She will now work with Christopher Viney, a professor of engineering at the University of California Merced, to learn principles of design and physics that could make her idea possible. She will also visit a lab at the University of Maryland, where engineers are creating similar types of models, to develop her prototype.
Besides her trips to the two universities, Olivia's prizes include a trip to the San Diego Zoo, a science book set from World Book, a building set and a microscope and biology kit. Her teacher, Donna Deldeo, will receive another science book set from World Book.
“The Kids’ Science Challenge offers an innovative model that lets children pose research questions and suggest experiments to be conducted by real scientists and engineers,” says Sandra Welch, program director in the Informal Science Education program at NSF. “Integrating traditional and new media -- including science radio broadcasts, podcasts, and blogs -- to engage kids in science
challenges will help guide other educational efforts in the future.”
The Challenge was created by Jim Metzner, producer of the award-winning Pulse of the Planet radio series, "to encourage elementary school students to discover that science is cool!"