Festival Showcases Future Faces of Science, Engineering

BY Kurtis Lee and Crispin Lopez III  October 23, 2010 at 4:28 PM EST

Thousands of students ventured to Washington D.C. for this weekend’s finale to the 2010 Science and Engineering Festival. Booths lined the National Mall as the event sought to pique the interest of the nation’s youth in science and math through an array of interactive exhibits.

Students from the National Cathedral School in Washington D.C. lured passers by with their display called “Where Did All the Water Go?” The group showed off a superabsorbent polymer called sodium polyacrylate.

“It’s kind of like a white powder and the molecule is shaped kind of like a cage,” 11th-grader Nora Loughlin explained. “And water goes into the cage and makes the cage expand.”

The polymer can absorb up to 300 times it mass in water, making it useful in disposable diapers and as an alternative for real snow on Hollywood sets and at ski resorts.

Watch how it’s done in just three easy steps.

Adam Cho, an 11th-grade student at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, is a member of Explorer Post 1010; a collaboration with defense contractor Lockheed Martin. He demonstrated the group’s “sumo bots.” The robots are built using the LEGO MINDSTORMS software. Each is equipped with sensors that help the robot judge distances, “see” where objects are and distinguish between light and dark. In this case, the robot is smart enough to distinguish between the white battle board and the black tape that lines its boundaries. Robots are placed on the board and the first one to knock the other outside the black tape wins.

Members meet at Lockheed Martin in Gaithersburg, Maryland on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings through out the school year to work on rocketry and robotics projects.

Video Editing by Crispin Lopez