The Daily Northwestern

Evanston first graders win national science award

Three Evanston first graders won 2nd place nationally for their science project in the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision competition. The awards were announced earlier this week and the group will travel to Washington, D.C., in June.

Source: Steve Angiolino

Three Evanston first graders won 2nd place nationally for their science project in the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision competition. The awards were announced earlier this week and the group will travel to Washington, D.C., in June.

Rachel Janik, Reporter

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Three first-graders from Evanston’s Kingsley Elementary School have won second place in a national science and technology competition, the National Science Teachers Association announced Wednesday.

The ExploraVision competition, administered by the NSTA and sponsored by Toshiba, is the nation’s largest K-12 science and technology competition. Contestants were asked to develop a product concept with technology they thought may be available in 20 years, according to contest rules.

Maggie Huerta, Mackenzie Greco and Nina Kaiser, all first-graders at Kingsley, won second place for their product, the Lice-Anator, a hairbrush that could detect and eliminate head lice.

Joel Huerta, father of 7-year-old Maggie, worked with the group as a mentor.

“The challenge for the parent is to guide without leading too much,” Huerta said. “You kind of nudge them, but they’re the ones who have to find their way.”

Huerta, a professor in Latin American and Latino Studies at University of Illinois at Chicago, said his daughter learned how to work on a project and developed a greater understanding of science through the program.

“Before, it was just a subject in school,” he said. “Now she really understands what science is for, that it’s for solving problems and seeing how things work.”

Karen Reid, the students’ first-grade teacher, said she has been supervising the ExploraVision projects for years. This is the first time one of her teams has won at the national level, she said.

“The students worked so hard on this project,” Reid said. “It was just a combination of an idea that’s appealing to a lot of people, the creativity of the solution and the integration of the technology.”

Reid said she believes understanding science is important for individual students as well as the nation.

“The subjects all work together, but science is just so fun for the kids,” Reid said. “It’s like playing, and that’s what kids need, as long as they’re learning in the process.”

Reid said that all three girls were “really happy.” She recorded the students’ reactions to Tuesday’s news for the ExploraVision program.

“It’s really exciting,” Huerta said. “We got involved as a learning experience — we weren’t expecting to win.”

Before moving on to the national finals, the students won the regional competition, and Kingsley received a Toshiba laptop. For their second-place national win, the students each received a $5,000 savings bond and a trip to Washington, D.C., with their families for a gala weekend where their project will be shown in an exhibition.

“In Washington I hope to see important people like my grandparents and the Congress,” Maggie Huerta said.

She said that at the exhibition she hopes people will say, “Wow, Amazing!  How did you come up with that?”

“That’s what I want people to think, especially if it is members of Congress,” Maggie Huerta added.

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