Kids’ Science Challenge

National Science and Engineering Competition for Third to Sixth Graders

Created by Jim Metzner and funded by a four-year grant from The National Science Foundation, the Kids’ Science Challenge will continue for the second year to offer third to sixth graders the opportunity to practice real science and work directly with cutting-edge scientists and engineers. Students are asked to propose an original question, problem or experiment that relates to the group of scientists involved with the competition. Winning students in each category will then have the opportunity to meet and work with these scientists, in addition to winning great prizes.

Participating scientists and challenges in Year 2 of the Kids’ Science Challenge include:

  • Bio-Inspired Designs
    Using nature to give us ideas for new inventions. The winner in this category will work with scientists and engineers at UC Berkeley and UC Merced to create a new product or idea, inspired by the natural world. Birds inspired airplanes; seed burrs were the inspiration for Velcro!
  • Imagining Sports on Mars
    Working with engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA; the budding scientist(s) will come up with a game suitable for playing on the mysterious Red Planet. Low-gravity frisbee, anyone?
  • Detective Science
    Future Columbos will work with scientists from the Forensic Science Department at Syracuse University to create an experiment where they employ the scientific techniques used in the science of detection to solve everyday mysteries. So who really did leave the bathroom light on?

Jim Metzner is the award-winning radio producer of Pulse of the Planet, which offers listeners sound portraits of Planet Earth, heard each weekday on over 320 public and commercial stations around the world. More than one million listeners of the show will be able to follow the progress and results of the Kids’ Science Challenge on Pulse of the Planet’s broadcasts.

Third to sixth graders will be able to enter the competition from October 1, 2009 to February 28, 2010.  Students can enter as individuals or in collaborative teams in the classroom and after school. Information and downloadable entry forms are available at

3 Comments on “Kids’ Science Challenge

  1. The Kids’ Science Challenge Winners Announced

    National science and engineering competition for third to six graders selects three winning entries Entries Double in Year #2 of the Competition

    Now in its second year, The Kid’s Science Challenge is a nationwide annual competition for 3rd to 6th graders to submit experiments and problems for a select group of scientists and engineers to solve. The winning students, chosen from more than 1600 entries, will collaborate with scientists and engineers to see their ideas come alive. Funded by the National Science Foundation and created by Jim Metzner, award-winning producer of the Pulse of the Planet radio series, the Kids’ Science Challenge encourages elementary school students to discover that science is cool!

    “In our first year, we had 770 entries, so we are very gratified that interest in this program is growing,” stated Jim Metzner. “We received entries from 27 states! Once again, we feel extremely lucky to have a great group of scientists and engineers working in areas that immediately appealed to kids. We were impressed by the caliber of the entries and the scientists are really excited about collaborating with the winning students to work on the questions and challenges they’ve raised. The Kids’ Science Challenge encourages team work and thinking outside the box. It demonstrates that science is not only cool – it matters,” exclaimed Metzner.

    Participating scientists and engineers for the Year #2 challenge, which launched October 1, 2009 include: Bio-Inspired Designs – The winning student will work with Christopher Viney, Professor, Engineering, UC Merced, and engineers at the University of Maryland to explore a problem using the world of nature as a springboard for new ideas. Detective Science – Students will work with forensic investigators Mo Lupia and David Tate, and Don Siegel – a professor of Earth Science at Syracuse University, to solve a real life mystery.

    Imagining Sports on Mars – Working with Ashwin Vasavada, Brett Kennedy, Adam Steltzner, Kobie Boynkins, Suparna Mukherjee and their colleagues at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, a budding engineer will come up with a game suitable for playing on the mysterious Red Planet.


    In Bio-Inspired Designs: Olivia Smith Donovan, 4th grader, Claymont Elementary School, Claymont, DE. Olivia took her inspiration from helicopter (maple tree) seeds which twirl around as they fall from the trees. She won- dered if she could create a model big enough to be used to drop emergency parcels (and people) from great heights. She needs to figure out if people would get too nauseous to be dropped, spinning to earth and if this model could work for dropping packages. In addition to working with Christopher Viney at UC Merced to learn some of the principles of design and physics that could make her idea possible, she will also visit a lab at the University of Maryland where they are currently creating similar types of models, to develop her prototype.

    In Detective Science: Caitlyn Taylor and Mason Wonka, “Team Marine Bustologists,” 6th graders, Storm Grove Middle School, Vero Beach, FL. The “Marine Bustologists’’ Caitlin and Mason are concerned about coral reefs in Florida being damaged by the sand and silt from dredging operations. Visiting with scientists at the Smithsonian
    Marine Station in Fort Pierce, they’ll learn how to trace sediments. At Syracuse University in New York, they’re working with professor Don Siegel and a team of environmental scientists to learn how to trace pollutants that are threatening the local water supply. They’re also learning some cool techniques on how to conduct a forensic investigation.

    In Sports on Mars: Tyrone Hutchinson II, 5th grader, Lyons Elementary School, Lyons, NY. Tyrone’s idea for a game is called Magnetic Soil Ball. He incorporated the issues of gravity on Mars and the soil being magnetic to create a game where players use a magnetic ball, which will attract the magnetic soil as it is dribbled. The object is to shoot the ball into the basketball hoops, and as it drops, the magnetic soil will fall into a bucket below the hoop. The team that fills its bucket with soil first, wins. Players will wear golden astronaut suits and helmets for protection from UV rays. Tyrone will get to simulate his game at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Mars Yard in addition to creating a graphic visualization of the game.

    The first 1,000 entrants to the competition have received free science activity kits. In addition to working with their scientists, winners’ prizes will include a week at Space Camp, an exclusive VIP tour of the San Diego Zoo, a week at a Pali Adventures Camp, as well as receiving microscopes, Zoobs and other great science kits and toys from JAKKS Pacific, Infinitoy, Frey Scientific, World Book, Thames & Kosmos, Edmund Scientifics and Wham-O.

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