A Season Of Hope

George Winner

June 09, 2006

Sometimes you just have to sit back and admire and celebrate success.

June is the season of college commencements and high school graduations. We even celebrate the move from elementary to middle school, and from middle to high school. It’s all about paying tribute to the success of our young people. If there are any greater celebrations of hope in our society, I can’t tell you what they are. Despite what the latest poll might say about how Americans feel about the direction of the country, soaring gas prices, high taxes, crime, unemployment and all of the other serious, and unsettling, challenges we face, taking a moment to celebrate a college or high school graduate, or even a youngster moving up a grade, is important.

Let’s face it, it gives us hope like nothing else gives us hope.

So not long ago, I was thrilled to read some good newsabout a team of students from the Alternative School for Math and Science in Corning that was one of four national first-place winning teams in the 2006 Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision Awards Program. Marina Adams. Ariel Miller. Pazia Miller. Kristina Schultz. This team of four eighth-graders developed a project of such creativity, intelligence and vision that it was recognized as outstanding in one of the world’s -- that’s right, the world’s -- largest science and technology competitions.

What an incredible achievement. More than 4,500 teams representing nearly 14,000 students from cities across America and Canada participated in this prestigious competition. The students, from kindergartners to high school seniors, were encouraged to examine a currently existing technology and then "think into the future" to imagine technological breakthroughs, based on real-life scientific principles, to envision how today’s technology might be used 20 years from now.

Our local team from Corning developed what they call an "Asthma Sensor Monitoring System" that uses a ceramic biosensor attached to a tooth to monitor nitric oxide levels in the breath of asthma sufferers. It would give warning to an impending attack. You can view the project online.

ExploraVision is a rigorous competition that over the past decade has become part of science curriculums in schools nationwide. As stated by the program’s sponsors, "Anyone who thinks the 20th century has a monopoly on amazing inventions should take a look at some of the ideas hatched by the students in the ExploraVision program." Nanotechnology robots traveling through veins and arteries to remove cholesterol. Engineered plants that produce solar energy. One team from the state of Alaska came up with an idea for airbags on the outside of cars to protect stray moose and other animals who wander onto highways.

"What makes the ExploraVision program so unique is that not only does it encourage students to be both creative and scientific, but it requires them to think critically about how science and technology can affect their world," said Arthur Eisenkraft, president of the National Science Teachers Association.

In the end, it’s all about this nation’s emphasis on science and math. America’s scientific and technological prowess will determine America’s success in the 21st Century. ExploraVision cites a Bayer Corporation survey that revealed the following: Four out of five chief executive officers of leading American science and technology companies are concerned that the United States is at risk of losing its position of prominence in the world of science and technology. Many of these same CEOs, in fact, are very concerned about America’s ability to compete for scientific and technical opportunities. We simply may not have the necessary trained employees.

The Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region is no stranger to the world of science and technology. We are home to world-class manufacturers, researchers and universities keeping us poised on the cutting edge of these exciting new worlds, and we recognize the need for the right work force to attract the best opportunities.

So it gives us great pleasure to help celebrate young people like Marina Adams, Ariel Miller, Pazia Miller and Kristina Schultz, as well as their coach Rachel Wood, their teacher Carey Gillisand all of the dedicated staff at the Alternative School for Math and Science in Corning. I’m proud to recognize their success. Congratulations.