Three teams of middle school students from Florida, New Jersey, and Connecticut have been named national winners in the Bright Schools Competition. The competition, a joint effort of the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), encourages middle school students (grades 6-8) to explore the connection between light and sleep and how it influences student health and performance. The students were chosen among 150 teams, made up of nearly 500 students from 53 schools.

Under the mentorship of an adult coach/teacher, teams of two to four students were asked to 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 developed a prototype, created an awareness campaign, or wrote a research proposal for the competition. Each team submitted a written report detailing their project along with a three-minute video showcasing their investigation. Projects were evaluated on the basis of several criteria, including scientific accuracy, innovativeness, and potential impact. Last month, 50 national finalists were named. Of those finalists, judges chose first-, second, and third-place teams. The winning projects include:

ShiftCycle Eyewear

The first-place team from Tampa Christian Community School in Tampa, Fla, developed ShiftCycle Eyewear to help the estimated 15 million US night-shift workers stay alert while on the job and realign their circadian rhythm so that they can get better sleep after work. Working the night shift runs counter to the body’s natural circadian rhythm, leading to fatigue, and sleep and health problems. ShiftCycle Eyewear offers green-blue light therapy and features electro-chromic polymer lenses that block blue light and bright light at the right times.

The Dream Team

The second-place team from Howell Middle School South in Howell, NJ, explored the effects of blue light emitted from electronic devices and its impact on student alertness. The team observed that when they completed school assignments at home during the later hours of the night, that they were tired and less focused the following day. The team conducted an experiment, observed and surveyed their classmates, and discovered that their classmates experienced similar feelings of fatigue. In analyzing the data they collected, the Dream Team determined that there was a definite correlation between electronic use after 8 PM and alertness in school the subsequent day. Their goal is to communicate their results to the administration and to their peers to improve awareness of this issue and its impacts on school performance. View the student-produced video here.

Sleep Best

The third-place team from Tolland Middle School in Tolland, Conn, created a school-wide awareness campaign to inform other middle-schoolers about the effects of blue light on sleep. The team also developed an app and an online game—Best the Blue Light—for students to learn more about blue light in a fun and engaging way, while also informing students about how to sleep better, stay healthy and perform well in school.

“It’s exciting to see students thinking beyond the science classroom, exploring important concepts related to light and sleep, and actively engaging their local community, while developing possible solutions to real issues,” says NSTA executive director David Evans, PhD, in a release. “Congratulations to all of the national winning teams for their dedication, collaborative spirit, and outstanding projects.”

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.