Fifty teams of middle school students have been named national finalists in the inaugural Bright Schools Competition. The competition is a collaborative effort of the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) that encourages students in grades 6-8 to explore the correlation between light and sleep and how it influences student health and performance. They were chosen among 170 teams, made up of nearly 550 students from 63 schools. From the 50 national finalist teams, first-, second-, and third-place national winning teams will be chosen and announced on May 2, 2016. The complete list of the national finalists can be found at http://brightschoolscompetition.org.
Student projects explored various aspects of sleep, with many focused on the effects of blue light. One of the student teams explored the relationship between autism and melatonin production to help those with Autism Spectrum Disorders get adequate sleep, and another researched the difference between natural and artificial light resulting in a student awareness campaign to encourage their school to construct a solarium dome to increase exposure to natural light.
“The National Sleep Foundation is encouraged to see so many students interested in how light directly affects their sleep and academic performance,” says David Cloud, NSF CEO in a release. “We congratulate the finalists on their innovative ideas and thoughtful projects. These students, teachers, and parents will help bring about change in the way institutions view lighting and overall health.”
Under the mentorship of an adult coach/teacher, teams of two to four students identify, investigate, and research an issue related to light and sleep as it pertains to their community and/or young adolescents. Using scientific inquiry or engineering design concepts teams develop a prototype, create an awareness campaign, or write a research proposal for the competition. Each team then submits a written report detailing their project along with a three-minute video showcasing their investigation. Projects are evaluated on the basis of several criteria, including scientific accuracy, innovativeness, and potential impact.
“Congratulations to all of the national finalists who competed in the competition this year,” says NSTA executive director David Evans, PhD. “We are pleased that so many students choose to use science to explore the connection between light and sleep. The students used important scientific practices, such as planning and carrying out investigations, and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. These skills will serve them well in the future regardless of their career path.”
All students who enter the competition receive a certificate of participation. Students on the first-place national winning team will each receive a cash prize of $5,000; second place students will receive $2,500; and third-place students will receive $1,500. The coach/teacher of the first place team will also receive a prize package, including Vernier Middle School Probeware, an all-expense paid trip to an NSTA conference, and membership to NSTA. The second-place coach/teacher will receive an all-expense paid trip to an NSTA conference and membership to NSTA, and the third-place coach/teacher will receive membership to NSTA and a $500 gift certificate to use in the NSTA Science Store.