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North Reading third-graders win national science fair

Posted by Christina Jedra  May 1, 2013 08:09 AM

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Back Row: Elizabeth Dill (Coach); Laura Wall (Mentor); Mary Ellen Murzyn (Toshiba) Front Row: Students – Harley Duffley, Annika Howe, Abby E. Wall, and John Jennings IV

Photo: Norbert Eng (TAEC)

Four third-grade students from North Reading’s LD Batchelder School learned on Tuesday that they placed first in the K-3 category of the world’s largest K-12 science and technology competition, the Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision Program.

The 9-year-old students - Harley Duffley, John Jennings IV, Annika Howe, and Abby E. Wall - impressed judges with their SIGHT system project, a futuristic tool that features holographic imaging and a map to help firefighters strategize their life-saving methods and prevent property damage. SIGHT - which stands for Safety, Interactive, Guided, Holographic, Technology - came about because Howe's father is a police officer, and the students wanted to help those who work in public service. 

Howe said her father “is probably going to scream,” when he learns of the students’ achievement. 

 “I love how we did it, and I love how this works for two [types of] people: firefighters and police officers,” she said.

The students’ teacher, Elizabeth Dill, said she was thrilled about the team’s win, especially because of the idea’s practical uses in emergency situations. 

“I think it’s a really interesting idea and given all the events that were happening [two weeks ago], if first responders had all that technology available, maybe it would’ve made things easier for them,” she said. 
 
Now in its 21st year, the competition saw an increased number of entries with 5,206 team projects from 15,963 students from the United States and Canada. Student entrants worked to predict what technology will be like in 20 years and created a project of their hypothetical invention. Entries were judged on creativity, scientific accuracy, communication. and feasibility of vision.

Eric Crossley, the director of science education competitions at NSTA and the competition manager, said that the SIGHT system project stood out in its category.
 
“[The judges] felt, for the grade level, that it was an advanced project,” he said. “I think in this instance, they felt it was - safety-wise - a great project and a wonderful addition to the top winners. They look for a project that helps mankind.”
 
Twenty-four regional winners from various grade levels and regions were notified of their achievement in early March. These groups each received a Toshiba notebook computer and created websites for their technologies that included a prototype, description, and a video. These websites would be the basis for the national judging.
 
Eight teams became finalists in May, and last week, four first-place and four second-place awards were given. As first-place winners, each of the SIGHT system project members won a $10,000 savings bond in addition to Toshiba HD camcorders they each received from reaching regional status.
 
“I really wanted to win,” said Duffley. “I felt very excited and proud.” 

On June 5, the students, their families, their teacher , and their mentor, Laura Wall, will also go an an expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where they will attend a gala awards weekend, visit Capitol Hill, meet members of Congress, display their work at a science showcase, and sightsee the nation’s capital.

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