A team of three middle school students from Hockessin, Delaware, that eased shrinking landfill space by devising a statewide, curbside composting plan was among select groups invited by President Barack Obama to exhibit today at the fourth annual White House Science Fair.
Students Eric Long, Max Huhn and Aaron Kenstaut, and their coach, Martine Long, known as the ZERO Waste Team, participated in the prestigious event that recognized outstanding contributions in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines.
President Obama, a vocal advocate of an increased emphasis on science and technology education, especially among girls, as being vital to our nation’s future, invited the group to showcase its project after it was chosen as the winner of the 2013 $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant. The grant was made by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation (CCF) as part of its annual Christopher Columbus Awards following a national competition among dozens of middle school teams.
“We are completely focused on recognizing and supporting middle and high school students who use STEM to provide community service,” said Dr. Maria Lombardo, chairman of the board for CCF, who accompanied the team. “It’s a great honor to have one of our teams included here today.”
Today’s appearance at the White House was only the latest in an impressive odyssey for the members of ZERO Waste Team. In recent months they also met with their local mayor and city council, members of the Delaware legislature, and U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D Del.)
ZERO Waste Team’s project implemented a curbside composting collection program that diverted waste from a local landfill, extending its expected life and reducing environmental impacts. The team’s research showed that America was losing landfills at a rate of about one per day. In 1995, Delaware was on track to reach its landfill capacity by the year 2020. In 2011, a curbside recycling program was mandated throughout the state, resulting in a 37 percent reduction in the landfill’s annual volume. The team’s solution will culminate in legislation that will mandate curbside composting statewide, thereby further extending landfill capacity, according to a statement released by the ZERO Waste Team.
“If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you’re a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too,” said Obama.
The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, an independent federal agency utilizing public-private partnerships, has a proud history of recognizing , nurturing and providing financial support to those who use innovative science and technology to serve their communities.
For 18 years CCF has presented Christopher Columbus Awards and Columbus Foundation Community Grants to teams of middle school students using STEM to provide community service. To date, participating students have received eight United States patents and one provisional patent. The 2014 Christopher Columbus Awards will be presented as part of a National Finals week in Orlando on June 9-11.