Young Scientists Highlight Need; at Competition, Teachers Lament Students' Overall Lack of Interest
Byline: Ben Wolfgang, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Claudia Cooper is the exception, not the rule.
The seventh-grader from West Hills Middle School in West Bloomfield, Mich., said she's only recently developed a passion for science. That interest helped her and her classmates take a second-place prize in this year's Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision Awards, the largest student science and technology competition in the nation.
I actually didn't even like science before this, the 13-year-old said between demonstrations of her team's project: the Intra-Trachea Breathing System, which is meant to filter air and offer a less-burdensome alternative to oxygen tanks for those with breathing problems.
But across the country, teachers and scientists are facing a test tougher than any in the laboratory. How do they keep young students interested in science and engineering, especially at a time when many fear the nation is losing ground to China and other countries in cutting-edge technology and innovation?
The younger the kids, the ideas are far better. Around fifth grade, they start losing that .. creativity, said Karen Lozano, a University of Texas professor and mother of Pablo Vidal, a third-grader at
Discovery Montessori School in McAllen, Texas, which took home a first-place award in the ExploraVision contest for its intelligent streets invention, which would use smart, translucent film in car windshields to receive traffic updates and warnings
First- and second-place ExploraVision Awards were given in four categories based on grade level.
Lawmakers fear students such as Claudia Cooper and Pablo Vidal are becoming more and more rare.
At a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on Thursday, Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican, lamented society's fixation on sports and entertainment, which, he argued, drain students' interest in science.
I watch the White House and the people that they invite there and slobber all over. They're not scientists, mathematicians and engineers. They're not academic achievers. They're athletes and entertainers, he said. I have a huge concern that we're not going to be able to retain our position as the premier economic and military power of the world if we're turning out one-seventh as many scientists .. as our competitors
When most students reach Claudia Cooper's age, it's usually too late.
People get a lifelong passion for what they're going to do before age 10, said Bill Nye, who works with ExploraVision and spoke Friday at its Friday showcase at the National Press Club in Washington, where winning inventions were on display for the public. …