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Kennedy Education Hosts Challenge Winners
Bob Cabana speaks to DuPont Challenge winners.

Image above: Veteran astronaut and current director of NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Bob Cabana, challenged the students to set goals for their futures. Image credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller

Presentation to DuPont Challenge winners.

Image above: The group got a chance to learn about NASA's plans for future exploration. Image credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller

DuPont Challenge winners

Image above: Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, left, with the DuPont educational staff, teachers and student winners of the DuPont Challenge 2009 Science Essay Competition. Image credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller

Mary had a little . . . clone?” The title may sound odd. But to the 2009 DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition judges, it was a winner.

The essay was written by Chris from Georgetown Ninth Grade Campus. He wrote it for a class assignment and his teacher, Mary Baugh, encouraged him to enter the competition.

“I’ve always thought it would be cool to be a clone, from a science viewpoint,” Chris said.

He and five students from schools around the country, along with their teachers, received the DuPont Challenge awards from NASA's Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana and Roger Siemionko, vice president of technology with DuPont Safety and Protection, during a recognition event at the Kennedy Visitor Complex’ Debus Conference Facility in Florida.

Cabana told the students persistence pays off.

“Set a goal and work toward it,” said Cabana, who also is a veteran astronaut. “Pick something you really enjoy doing and you will excel at it.”

The DuPont Challenge offers students in grades seven through 12 the opportunity to write an essay about a scientific discovery, theory, event or technological application that has captured their interest.

Senior division winners in grades 10-12 were Julian from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology; Jeremy from the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science; and Michael from Oregon Episcopal School in Portland.

Julian’s essay, “Water from the Wind: Beetle-inspired Hydrophilic/Superhydrophobic Structured Surfaces,” focused on a specific African beetle and how it uses its wings to extract water from the air.

Michael, a high school senior, wrote the essay, “Concrete -- A Touch of Romance.” During science projects, he learned about the concrete industry and material sciences. After graduation, Michael plans to attend Harvey Mudd College and major in interdisciplinary engineering.

Junior division winners in grades seven through nine were Sivabalan from Rice Middle School; Sarah from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology; and Chris.

Stites, a ninth-grader, submitted the essay, “Battle of the Body.” After reading about cell structure in biology class, Sarah thought it would be cool to research and write about free radicals and how they affect the aging process.

The DuPont Challenge is sponsored by the DuPont Center for Collaborative Research and Education in collaboration with NASA, The Walt Disney World Resort, the National Science Teachers Association and A+ Media. Since its inception 23 years ago, more than 200,000 students from all 50 states and Canada have entered the competition.

In each division, the first, second and third place winners receive $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 U.S. Savings Bonds, respectively. The winners also receive an expenses-paid trip to The Walt Disney World Resort and Kennedy.

The Education Office of Kennedy’s External Relations Directorate arranged for the students, along with their parents and teachers, to tour Kennedy and its working facilities.

According to Education Specialist Helen Kane, this is the third year that the Education Office has participated in honoring the winning students.

“Education and imagination are keys to discovery,” Kane said. “The simple fact is that today’s students are NASA’s future work force.”

For more information about the DuPont Challenge, go to

Linda Herridge
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center