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Meet Alliant’s 2014 National Education Program winners

November 01, 2014

By Paul Brucker

More than 100 students submitted entries in Alliant’s 2014 National Education Program. The young scholars harnessed their imaginations – as well as a variety of media – to respond to the questions “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and “How can a computer enrich my education?” These young Alliant members in three age groups (5-9, 10-13 and 14-17) competed for $5,250 in gift cards redeemable for computers and related items. Here are the winners…

$1,000 Gift Card “Golden Apple Award” winners


Age category: 5-9 years old

Rachel, 9, of New York, says “I can’t wait until my inventions become real” and “make life easier.” And she’s off to a great start. At a science camp last summer at Columbia University, she tinkered a lot during its scheduled “Tinker Time.” “Tinkering means to play with something over and over again so you can improve it,” she says. “I learned two principles of inventions: 1) it must work, and 2) it must look good.” At camp, Rachel used soda bottles, film canisters, paper, cardboard and Styrofoam to build a prototype of her “tri-vehicle,” a unique flying machine that transforms into a boat, car and helicopter. Rachel also enjoys ballet dancing, swimming and gymnastics, but she says her mission is “to make inventions that will solve problems to help the world.” Some ideas she has on tap: “a robo-shoe, a house that can move and a hair machine that styles your hair.”



Age category 10-13 years old

Vivian, 11, of Chicago, says she doesn’t know if she wants to be a reading teacher, dolphin trainer or professional seamstress, but guesses “at my age, I don’t really have to make a decision yet.” There’s one thing she already is: a great storyteller and writer. Having a fast laptop will help her writing, she says: “That’s because I’ll be less aggravated, which means a relaxed mind. And a relaxed mind leads to an open mind with more space for creativity and imagination to flow and create stories.” A high honors student, she says math and science are not very fun for her, but notes that a computer can help by providing educational learning games for those subjects. Vivian has been saving money for a new laptop for two years. “I don’t know about you,” she says, “but saving up $300 is hard. Girls my age go to the mall and spend $40 on clothes, then another $5 for coffee. I don’t do that because I’ve been using every cent I get to save for a new laptop.”



Age category: 14-17 years old

Ethan, 14, of Jamestown, IN, (or should we say Dr. Ethan?) sent in a fire-singed journal that contains a comprehensive daily mock account about the condition of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii. “The plume from the vent continued to deposit variable amounts of ash matter, which could mean that smaller particles may have been dropped several kilometers away,” he reports. Ethan says he’s always been fascinated with science and mystery and that’s why he wants to be a volcanologist: “Then I’d be a science detective, trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle from the clues the Earth tells us.” Ethan also sent in a cool LEGO® model that shows a cross section of a volcano erupting. He says that chronicling a volcano erupting is “adventurous, but a volcanologist’s job is not usually this exciting. The majority of the work happens in a laboratory and an office.” Ethan plans to take many high school math, chemistry, physics and computer classes to prepare for his chosen profession.



$500 Gift Card “Silver Key Award” winners



Age category: 5-9 years

Marissa, 9, of Lizton, IN, saw the ocean for the first time last summer when her family visited California. “The ocean is absolutely beautiful and I had so much fun swimming in it, learning how to boogie board, and just enjoying the sounds and view on the beach,” she says. Then came the saddest part of her trip: going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and seeing the vivid exhibits that demonstrate how plastic and other trash from our waterways end up in the ocean, adversely affects marine life and can lead to death for many animals. She says she was dismayed to learn that “each day we throw away about 300 million tons of petroleum-based plastic items and that 40% of all Albatross chicks at the remote Midway Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean die each year because their bellies are full of bottle caps, toothbrushes and other plastic.” Marissa sent in a display with a wide variety of plastic items often found in the bellies of sea birds and other marine animals. She also sent in examples of reusable items that people can choose to use to stop the pollution. To help protect marine life, Marissa plans to become a marine biologist. “I want to teach people to make different choices about what products we use every day and how it affects our water, ocean animals and our environment.”


Age category 10-13 years old

Matthew, 13, of Crystal Lake, IL, is determined to become a professional animator. He spent 12 hours creating a 2:25 minute animated video. He used a 7-year old computer “that just doesn’t cut it,” he says, and a software program that provides only circles and sticks to make animations. In the video, Matthew drives a van to work a 10-hour shift at a burger joint. He then goes to an animation studio to apply for a job. The hiring manager takes a look at Matthew’s work and is unimpressed. Later, Matthew goes to a store and buys the laptop of his dreams. And the new work he creates makes his dream come true. Matthew returns to the animation studio. The hiring manager is so excited by the young animator’s latest work that he grows an exclamation mark over his head. Matthew’s creativity and determination pay off and he gets the job.


Age category: 14-17 years old

Alizay, 17, of Woodland, CA, started taking photographs as a hobby.” Taking photos then became my passion and journey of growth,” she says. “Being a 17-year-old freelance photographer is a tough business,” Alizay adds. But she is determined to stick it out and make a living as a professional photographer. Alizay showcases her work on Facebook and Instagram. To convey a good sense of “who I am, what I’m about and what I hope to accomplish,” she sent in a slide show of her professional-quality work. Alizay looks forward to getting her own computer because she has a lot of competition to get access to her family’s computer, and her photos and editing software take up a lot of space on it.


$250 Gift Card “Brass Bell Award Award” winners


Age category: 5-9 years

Benjamin, 6, of Baca Raton, FL, wants to be an airline pilot when he grows up. “With a computer, I could practice on a flight simulator,” he says. Benjamin sent in a color drawing of a United Airlines jet flying over the ocean.


Age category 10-13 years old

Carina, 13, of Hilton Head, SC, has already traveled to 31 countries and plans to become a physical therapist to help children in Africa. She sent in a well-designed newsletter that tells a story of how she helped a boy on crutches named Olujimi who tripped over a stone. Using an app on her laptop, she diagnosed his broken bone, and then stretched his foot so they could walk to his village through the plains full of dangerous wild animals. Olujimi means “given by God” in the Yoruba language, Carina notes. In her story, Olujimi tries to say something to her in his language, so Carina quickly pulls out her computer again and uses a translation app so they can understand each other. In the future, Carina says, “with my computer I could see my Alliant bank account to see if I could afford college.” After college, she plans to use a computer “to look up places where they might need my help, find apps to quickly help others and get precise answers in a short time.”


Age category: 14-17 years old

Justin, 15, of Hilton Head, SC, wants to be either a commercial pilot, fighter pilot, test pilot or stunt pilot. One thing is for sure: He wants to be a pilot. “If I said I love flying, that would be an understatement,” Justin says. “I have always dreamed of flying. I love that excitement when you take off and your body is pushed back in your seat and the thrill of reaching a cruising altitude and looking across a sea of clouds glistening in the sun.” Justin also plans to become an aerospace engineer who designs planes. To demonstrate his passion, Justin sent in “Setting High Goals,” a photo essay that includes breathtaking pictures of planes in flight, including one of him behind the controls of a small aircraft. “Becoming a pilot takes a lot of work,” he says. He plans to use his computer to become an ace at flight simulation and writing entries in flight logbooks.

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