Feature

Text Size

Gifted DuPont Essay Winners Share Passions
05.07.13
 
Kennedy Space Center Associate Director Kelvin Manning talks to the 2013 DuPont Essay Challenge winners

Image above: The winning students of the 2013 DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition and their teachers show off their awards after a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on April 26. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
› View Larger Image
 

2013 DuPont Essay Challenge winners

Image above: Kennedy Space Center Associate Director Kelvin Manning addresses students, teachers, parents and VIPs during the 2013 DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition awards ceremony at Kennedy's visitor complex April 26. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
› View Larger Image
 

Gaurav Garg, a junior high school student from Katy, Texas, wants his dad to get a tattoo. Not one of those fire-breathing dragons, but a nano tattoo.

You see, Gaurav's dad has diabetes and by getting this particular tattoo he can monitor his sugar levels without having to prick a finger several times a day.

Gaurav wrote an essay and entered it into the DuPont Essay Challenge two years ago, but didn't make the final cut. So this time, he took a different approach. Gaurav decided to do some research and write "I Wish My Dad Got a Tattoo," a thought-provoking essay about this ground-breaking scientific development. It earned him a 2013 DuPont Essay Challenge award.

"I put a lot of work into this and I am grateful that it paid off this way," Gaurav said. "The key, I think, was that I made it personal."

Gaurav and three students from schools across the country, along with their teachers, received DuPont Challenge awards from Kennedy Space Center Associate Director Kelvin Manning and Marc Doyle, Dupont's global marketing and product director, during a recognition event at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's Debus Conference Facility on April 26. They were chosen from the more than 9,000 essays submitted.

"This program is outstanding," Manning said. "Thousands wrote a scientific essay and these four rose to the top. Their teachers and parents should be very proud."

The Education Programs Division of Kennedy's Education and External Relations Directorate arranged for the students, along with their parents and teachers, to tour the space center and its working facilities.

According to Lesley Fletcher, Kennedy's deputy division chief of Education, the center enjoys the opportunity to host these gifted students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

"A lot of times when a student is involved in a competition such as this, it's the spark that leads to a degree in STEM," said Lesley Fletcher, Kennedy's deputy division chief of Education, "and programs such as this one allow us to be involved with these gifted students."

Since its inception 27 years ago, more than 200,000 students in grades seven through 12 from all 50 states and Canada have entered the competition by writing an essay about a scientific discovery, theory, event or technological application that has captured their interest.

The reward prizes total $100,000, including U.S. Savings Bonds for every winner and a special awards trip to Orlando that includes visits to Disney World and Kennedy for the top two students in each division, to be joined by a parent and sponsoring teacher.

Those four include senior division grand prize awardee Hugo Yen, a high school student from Fullerton, Calif., and first runner-up Laura Herman, a high school student in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"Winning this provides me more inspiration to continue my pursuit to always try and do better," said Hugo, who wrote an essay on solar tracking. "I hope I can just continue to learn more about science."

The senior division includes grades 10-12.

"As I've been exposed to these amazing competitions and been recognized, it's meant so much to me." Laura said. "I love the ability to reach out and communicate."

Junior division winners (seventh- to ninth-grade) were grand prize winner Jacob Yoshitake a middle school student in San Diego, Calif., and Gaurav.

"I consider myself an all-around student and this competition combined my two favorite passions -- writing and science," Jacob said. "I want to use my writing skills to expose the non-stereotypical side of science."

The DuPont Essay Challenge honors space shuttle Challenger's STS-51L crew members who gave their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery. The DuPont Challenge is sponsored by its namesake, the DuPont Co. in collaboration with NASA, NBC Learn, Britannica Digital Learning, the Walt Disney Resort, National Science Teachers Association and A+ Media.

 
 
Frank Ochoa-Gonzales
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center