This story was originally published in the Fall 2010 issue of Harker Quarterly
For the fourth year in a row, Harker students claimed regional recognition in eCYBERMISSION’s national competition, receiving monetary awards totaling $18,000 between the two teams. One team also received an all-expenses-paid trip to the National Judging and Educational Event in Baltimore, Md., on June 21-26 to present their final project to four army officials and teachers from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
A competition challenging students in grades six to nine to use science, math and technology to solve real community issues, eCYBERMISSION encourages students to research and conduct experiments to find a solution. While “Dust Busters,” Allen Cheng, Daniel Pak, Albert Chu and Sharon Babu, now all grade 9, did not place nationally in Baltimore, the team had the opportunity to meet with all regional winners and explore the two Smithsonian museums and Aberdeen Proving Ground, home of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.
The “Dust Busters’” presentation was the culmination of a year’s worth of research on a community controversy two students initially read about in the town newspaper related to mercury dust emissions from Lehigh Hanson Cement Plant.
Before submitting their project online in February, the quartet spent five months collecting water from four different bodies of water, testing for emissions in the lab and compiling data to research ways to educate the residents about the pollution and possible health issues. They also interviewed Hanson Quarry to hear the company’s side of the story.
The “Dust Busters” discovered that, while the local cement plant was not in violation of the current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the mercury level in water near the quarry was significantly higher than mercury levels in other bodies of water in the area. The students took their findings to the Cupertino City Council and created a pamphlet that was distributed door-to-door to residents.
“This project needs students who have good research skills, writing skills, data collection and analysis and public relations skills to help them interview experts in the field that they are working on,” Vandana Kadam, advisor and math teacher, said about the group’s dynamic. “This team had a good combination of these qualities and hence worked very well together.”
The “Analytic Trio,” now also in grade 9, were Vikas Bhetanabhotla, Divyahans Gupta and Brian Tuan. They also received high honors and were recognized for their project’s application of science, math and technology. After experimenting with six different designs, the “Analytic Trio” presented a gas nozzle prototype that emits a lower amount of volatile organic compounds (VOC) into the environment than the current nozzle used across the nation.
“We are extremely proud of the students from The Harker School for their creative and innovative use of outstanding research, experimentation and analysis during this year’s eCYBERMISSION competition,” Major General Nick G. Justice said. “These students were selected from thousands of their peers, not only for their potential as future leaders in STEM [science, technology, engineering, math], but for their work to improve and make a positive impact on the communities in which they live.”