Lubbock sixth and seventh graders win national competition with science projects to prevent hot car deaths and deer-vehicle collisions

Southcrest student win national science challenge (10 p.m.)

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Seven local children from Southcrest Christian School are being recognized nationally for their research and inventions using Science, Technology, Engineering and Math to provide progress towards solving problems affecting more than just west Texans.

The students, three sixth graders and four seventh graders, competed in eCYBERMISSION, a competition put on by The U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program and the National Science Teachers Association.

Sixth graders Alexa Tindall, Ethan Djajadi and Josiah Morales, worked with their team advisor, Laura Wilbanks, to confront an issue that is more and more common as the summer months heat up: children being forgotten in hot cars.

Texas has been considered the worst State for child hot-car deaths, according to Just over the weekend of June 22-23, a 1-year-old in Galveston and a 4-year-old in Dallas died from being left in hot cars.

The group’s invention, H.O.T.C.A.R.S., is an electronic device attached to the child’s car seat, reminding parents on their phone if they’ve left a child in the car, if they step too far away while the child’s buckles are still latched.

KCBD spoke with the sixth grade team earlier this year about the development of their project, and how it could help prevent children being forgotten in the heat.

Isaiah Baier, Aaron Barbee, Caleb Cole-Smith and Dimitrio Martinez, the seventh grade team, also worked with Laura Wilbanks as an advisor to see if they could identify a way to reduce the amount of deer-vehicle collisions, a sometimes surprisingly common issue.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that there are around one million car crashes annually that involve deer, with 200 resulting in deaths. Meaning deer that wander onto roadways kill more people than annual deaths from sharks and bears combined.

The students’ project titled, “Oh, Deer!” started by observing the amount of light reflected by trees and plants near the roads, and then testing the reflective properties of local flora, and putting test subjects through an online simulation testing their ability to spot deer under different driving conditions with slowly increasing levels of light to determine at what point subjects could spot the deer. The team discovered a 20% light increase from roadside trees and plants could make large animals like deer 75% more visible to subjects on the virtual roadways.

As winners of the national competition, these kids will bring home $9,000 in matured value U.S. Savings bonds; in addition to the $4,000 in matured value savings bonds awarded to national finalists. Since eCYBERMISSION began in 2002, they have given away more than $10 million in U.S. Savings bonds. In 2018, the competition saw 5,097 teams enter with 20 finalists.

eCYBERMISSION is a web-based countrywide competition for children in sixth through ninth grade that encourages them to find applications for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), that they can use to help solve problems in their communities and around the world.

Students form groups of three to four and work with a teacher/adult advisor to identify a goal, or problem that needs solving and then the children use science and engineering to invent solutions and compete virtually with other students in their state and region, and then again in-person at the National event in Washington, D.C. where students are given educational workshops from U.S. Army engineers and scientists, tours of the Inventors Hall of Fame, a visit to Capitol Hill to meet with members of congress and tour the National Mall, and a live-streamed showcase of the winning ideas by the students.

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