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Students' Inventions Combine Creativity, Science, Technology -- and Earn Rewards!


Curriculum Center

The Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) ExploraVision Awards program, now in its 10th year, has become one of the nation's largest K-12 science and technology competitions. The program allows students to be creative as they use research and scientific principles to design inventions. Included: Education World talks with last year's winners. Plus how to register for this year's program!

How to Enter

To receive an entry kit and a copy of the competition's official rules, go to the ExploraVision Web site, send an e-mail to ExploraVision, call 1-800-EXPLOR9, or write to Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision Awards, 1840 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201. The deadline for ExploraVision entries is Feb. 4, 2002.

Can you imagine a toothbrush that detects cavity-causing bacteria? How about a heart-monitoring device that can signal for medical assistance in an emergency?

Those are just some of the inventions that sprung from the imaginations of K-12 students who entered the ninth annual Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) ExploraVision Awards contest last year. Working in teams of two to four, students develop inventions using scientific principles, existing scientific knowledge, and predictions for new technology based on current data. First- and second-place winners are selected from U.S. and Canadian entries in grades K-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12.


Last year's second-place winner in the K-3 category, the Cavity Zapper, was thought up by a team of three first graders and one second grader at Metairie Park Country Day School in Metairie, Louisiana. According to the students' description, the toothbrush-like device detects good and bad bacteria on teeth and transmits the locations to a computer screen, teacher Amie Miller said. If the Cavity Zapper discovers bad bacteria, which can lead to cavities, it notes where to use anti-bacterial toothpaste or floss.

The students came up with the idea for the Cavity Zapper on their own, Miller told Education World. Parent mentors worked with that team and three other teams from Miller's class, which is a combined K-2 class.

Last year was the second time some of Miller's students participated. "It seemed like a great opportunity for imagination, creativity, and thinking about science and technology," said Miller. "It's pure science, doing what scientists do."


In the case of the second-place team in the 7-9 grade category from St. Luke Lutheran School in Santa Rosa, California, several students had family members with heart problems, and that led to their idea for the Cardio-Mate, said teacher Ron Martin. The team included two eighth graders and a seventh grader. The device was designed to provide medicinal and electronic remedies for any heart failure and if those failed, to alert medical professionals with a global positioning system, Martin said.

Besides fine-tuning their research skills, students got experience in the areas of time management, working cooperatively, and following instructions exactly, Martin told Education World.

"Cooperation was the first thing they ran into that they had to resolve," he said.

Both Miller and Martin said they would like to have teams participate in the program this year, adding that both the experience and financial rewards are beneficial to students.

"It's gratifying that Toshiba thinks enough of children's ideas to fund them to this degree," Miller said.