PHOTOS: Bill Fitzpatrick
Forty finalists from across the U.S. gathered in Washington, DC this weekend to kick off the seventh annual Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge. Finalists displayed and explained their winning science fair projects at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History on Sunday, October 22, 2006.
On Monday, October 23 and Tuesday October 24 eight teams of five finalists trekked to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD to compete in unique science challenges—each timed and judged—and battle for more than $100,000 worth of scholarships and special prizes, and the coveted title of "America's Top Young Scientist of the Year." View the photos below to catch the fearless finalists in action.
Avian Flu: Something in the Air
Finalists were assigned roles—ER doctor, virologist, or public health official—and were faced with a pseudo-patient, "Joe Plastic", who was presenting with virus-like symptoms. The team was tasked to identify and understand the virus, determine how to mitigate its spread, and finally explain in a press conference their findings and recommendations. Using real samples of tissue and a safe protein-detection lab procedure, the young scientists determined which samples were infected with the avian influenza virus, and worked quickly to determine how germs from the disease can spread and cause a pandemic. Finalists also followed "herd immunity" protocol to determine distribution of limited supplies of flu vaccine.
Obesity: Eath, Think & Be Healthy
Finalists were asked to choose common food items to create a healthy, low-calorie cafeteria lunch (about 500 calories) and a typical high-calorie lunch (about 1000 calories). They then calculated the actual caloric content of each lunch using accurate date provided. Next, finalists examined the expended energy necessary for a typical teenager to burn that larger portion or extra calories and maintain a healthy weight. Lastly, teams created a mock radio show for teens to relay the importance of healthy eating and activity habits for proper weight management.
Endoscopy / Imaging / Colonoscopy: From the Inside Out
This double challenge utilized two methods for looking inside a living organism. Teams were divided in half and each chose a medical technique to investigate further—imaging or genetics. Those who worked on imaging used a state-of-the-art virtual colonoscopy simulator to locate polyps and other abnormalities, and then produced a three-minute video explaining the nature and benefit of colonoscopy. Those who worked on genetics studied zebra fish embryos injected with fluorescent proteins to illuminate their organs. Using high-resolution microscopes, finalists studied explored genetic composition of the fish.
Environment: Breaking the Mold
Hurricane Katrina increased the exposure of environmental contaminants in the areas hit by the disaster. Finalists used actual disaster and flood artifacts from a New Orleans middle school affected by Hurricane Katrina to perform several analytical challenges, including the identification of safe vs. noxious molds, infestations, and chemicals.
Requiring delicate measuring and timing techniques, finalists were challenged to create a rare elegant chemical reaction. By mixing the correct solutions in the right amounts at the right time, finalists needed to cause a solution to change from clear to intense orange to complete black. Happy Halloween!
Lab Tech Relay
Finalists were challenged to complete a series of eight standard lab operations with precision and accuracy in a relay race fashion. Activities included metric estimation, rock and mineral identification, slide analysis, density determination, focal length determination, and celestial mapping. Skills in geology, biology, microbiology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy were tested.
When finalists weren't in the thick of timed, judged team challenges, they took a break with Jake and tried their hands at unique experiments, which proved that science can be fun and whelming!
All 40 finalists visited Ketcham Elementary School in Washington, DC to meet with 4th, 5th and 6th graders to share their enthusiasm about science and to officially kick off science fair season at school.
The 2006 YSC is history! Check out the winning finalists and get a glimpse of the exciting awards ceremony held at Discovery in Silver Spring, MD.