Largest K-12 Student Science, Technology Competition Announces 2013 Winners

Lauren Williams's picture
Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The young scientists and inventors of the 21st annual Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision program, the world’s largest K-12 student science competition, are tackling many of today’s most pressing issues, and their prize-winning ideas could someday help build a better future. Winning project ideas ranged from a hand-held food allergy detector that could help protect those vulnerable to dangerous edibles, to a sophisticated new device for helping firefighters save more lives, to preventive health technologies for heart attacks and other life-threatening ailments. ExploraVision students are asked to combine real science with their own visionary imaginations to propose amazing inventions that could exist in 20 years. As a testament to the program’s popularity and value as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educational tool, three student winners from the 2012 competition recently showcased their projects at the White House Science Fair hosted by President Barack Obama, marking the third year that ExploraVision students were invited to the event.

Working in Teams Just Like Real-Life Scientists

Underwritten by Toshiba and administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision is the world’s largest K –12 science and technology competition. It challenges students to work in teams of two to four, to research real scientific principles and current technologies as the basis for designing innovative future technologies. The program encourages students to participate in science and engineering, while critically examining problems and imagining solutions. Since its inception in 1992, more than 315,000 students have participated. This year, the program saw a nine percent increase in student participation -- 5,206 team projects representing 15,963 students from across the U.S. and Canada. With its multi-level, imaginative and fun approach to learning, ExploraVision encourages education in vital STEM fields.

Mr. Masaaki Osumi, Toshiba America Inc.’s Chairman and CEO, and Toshiba’s Corporate Representative for the Americas, noted: “As a company with a history of technological innovation that goes back over 130 years, Toshiba is committed to motivating young people to excel in important STEM subjects. We believe it is more crucial than ever for the future of our society to encourage students to explore and develop their innate interest and passion for science, particularly if they wish to pursue careers in science and engineering fields.  For 21 years now, Toshiba ExploraVision has been a central pillar of Toshiba’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiative in North America, and we are extremely proud of the success that this program has had in bringing so many thousands of students, teachers and parents into the wonder and potential of scientific achievement and exploration.”

“The Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision program is a celebration of the talent and ingenuity of our youth, providing students with a unique opportunity to think critically while designing innovative technologies that could exist in 20 years,” said Dr. David Evans, NSTA Executive Director. “It’s inspiring to witness tomorrow’s leaders practicing real science and engineering while working together to envision technologies that could benefit their communities and make a difference in the world around them. Congratulations to all of the national winning teams and their teachers for their hard work, dedication, and imaginative ideas.”

Fixing Problems that Arise in Everyday Life

With guidance from their teachers and mentors, Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision student teams are encouraged to look at the world around them, identify pressing issues, and develop ideas for technologies that could potentially solve them. For instance, looking at the unpleasant and growing problem of head lice infestations in schools, day care centers and other facilities, a team of first-grade students from Kingsley Elementary in Evanston, Ill. came up with the Lice-A-Nator, a computerized hairbrush with special bristles and processors that not only detect the presence of the creepy crawlers, but also kill them using a tiny pulsating laser. 

Two eighth-grade students from Kilmer Middle School in Vienna, Va. envisioned a way to help prevent dangerous and unpredictable allergic reactions with the Food Allergen Detector. This hand-held apparatus would focus a UV laser beam on food samples to detect 50 common allergens and alert the user of a potential anaphylactic reaction.

Straight out of Texas horse country, three equine-inclined sixth-grade students from Mitchell Intermediate School in The Woodlands, galloped to their national win by proposing a new diagnostic tool for horses, L.E.A.D.S. (Leaders in Laminitis). L.E.A.D.S. is a specially designed soft foot pad equipped with key diagnostic technologies to help detect and treat Laminitis, an inflammation in the thin tissues of a horse’s hoof that often plagues race horses. Anticipating potential emergency situations, a team of three third-grade students from the L.D. Batchelder Elementary School in North Reading, Mass. proposed a new way for firefighters to react swiftly and efficiently while planning their attack on burning buildings with the SIGHT system. The system would project a holographic image and detailed map of the building at the fire station that would allow personnel to strategically plan their approach, helping save lives and prevent property damage.

Addressing Key Health Care Concerns

Addressing health concerns is often a key ExploraVision motivator. This year, for example, in a bid to help alleviate the problem of scoliosis, or abnormal spinal curvature, a 10th-grade team from Our Lady of Lourdes Academy in Miami, Fla. envisioned S2I, a hollow fiber vest that would utilize a system of magnets inserted in the spine itself to administer mechanical force to correct the curvature over time. The S2I would be more effective, safe, and comfortable than current bracing or surgical treatments. To help prevent heart attacks, a 10th through 12th-grade team from San Jose, Calif., suggested Immunotargeted DNA-based Nanostructures for the Delivery of the Pro-Angiogenic VEGF Protein to Revascularize Infarcted Myocardium, a DNA nanostructure delivery system that would administer a beneficial VEGF protein directly to the patient’s heart.

To help everyone maintain better balance, especially people challenged by orthopedic issues, a fifth-grade team from Chapman Hill Elementary School in Salem, Ore. proposed a new system called Smart Moves that would include a full body flexible suit with foot pressure sensors, accelerometers. Whenever a person becomes unbalanced, sensors and guide wires in the suit assist the individual, making slight corrections to re-establish a person’s center of gravity. 

Finally, to help an estimated two million people in the U.S. alone who have lost limbs due to disease or trauma, a seventh-grade team from The Alternative School for Math and Science in Corning, N.Y. came up with the idea for the Opti-Arm-An Optical Interface Prosthetic Device, a new type of limb replacement that would simulate the neural pathway of an individual and allow true-to-life movement in real time. The brain of the wearer would literally control his or her new arm!

ExploraVision Prize Rewards
Students on the four first-place ExploraVision national winning teams will each receive a $10,000 U.S. Series EE Savings Bond (at maturity). Students on second-place teams will each receive a $5,000 Savings Bond (at maturity). The eight teams will also receive an expenses-paid trip with their families, mentor, and coach to Washington, D.C., June 5-8, 2013, for a gala awards weekend. Activities will include a Congressional Science Fair at Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress, a Science Showcase during which the students will display and demonstrate their winning ideas, an appearance at the National Press Club, and sightseeing around the nation’s capital. The weekend will conclude with a gala awards banquet where students will be formally recognized for their accomplishments.

For more information or an application for 2014, visit www.exploravision.org or e-mail exploravision@nsta.org. Follow ExploraVision on Twitter at @ToshibaInnovate or join Toshiba Innovation’s Facebook Page at www.Facebook.com/ToshibaInnovation to learn more about ExploraVision.

About Toshiba

Toshiba is a world-leading diversified manufacturer, solutions provider and marketer of advanced electronic and electrical products and systems. Toshiba Group brings innovation and imagination to a wide range of businesses: digital products, including LCD TVs, notebook PCs, tablets, retail solutions and MFPs; electronic devices, including semiconductors, storage products and materials; industrial and social infrastructure systems, including power generation systems, smart community solutions, medical systems and escalators & elevators; and home appliances. Toshiba was founded in 1875, and employs over 20,000 people in North America and Toshiba America, Inc., is the holding company for five Toshiba operating companies in the United States.

Toshiba’s North-America based companies and some of their chief products are as follows: Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc. (Semiconductors, Flash Memory-Based Storage Solutions, LCD, custom chips, and Hard Disk Drives); Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. (Laptop Computers, Tablets, Telephony Products, Flat Panel LCD TVs, and portable products); Toshiba America Business Solutions, Inc. (Copiers, Facsimiles, Printers); Toshiba International Corporation (Motors, Motor Controls, Power Electronics, Power Generation Equipment, Automation); Toshiba America Medical Systems, Inc. (Computed Tomography, Magnetic Resonance, X-ray and Ultrasound); Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation (Advanced Boiling Water Nuclear Reactors); Toshiba America Foundation (Supports science and mathematics education across the United States) and Toshiba of Canada, Ltd. (Made up of four operating divisions).

About NSTA

The Arlington, VA-based National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. NSTA's current membership includes approximately 55,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in science education.