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The Adventures of the Nutritional Kingdom Project

Winner of the Junior Academy Challenge – Spring 2023 “Healthy Snacks”

Team members: Natalie O. (Team Lead) (United States), Lara K. (Jordan), Connie H. (United States), Mariem M. (Egypt), Ibrahim S. (United States), Amena S. (Jordan)

Mentor: Leticia Mendoza-Martínez (Mexico)

Childhood obesity has become a major public health issue around the world. In the United States alone, 1 in 5 children is overweight or obese– a particularly prevalent issue in the Hispanic community, where lack of access to affordable, healthy food along with other socioeconomic factors create major disadvantages. For the Junior Academy’s 2023 Spring Innovation Challenge on “Healthy Snacks”, six students formed an international team to develop “The Adventures of the Nutritional Kingdom”– a campaign to encourage healthy eating aimed specifically at Hispanic children in the southern U.S. Collaborating across continents and time zones, the students met online to create the winning project. “Cooperation enhances the goal because when a group from different countries of the world gathers to work on one goal, this undoubtedly confirms its importance,” Meriem says.

According to the CDC, 26.2% of Hispanic youth are obese. Childhood obesity can have broad consequences, from long-term health implications like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, to psychological impacts like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, (often related to bullying). Before devising their solution, the team conducted a survey of Hispanic families in both Spanish and English to help them identify a novel approach. Natalie assumed the role of Team Lead. “I was in charge of overseeing everyone’s collaboration efforts, notifying team members of their weekly tasks, and was the head website developer for the team. It was a surreal experience being a leader of such intelligent and motivated students. Our ideas were productive, and our final results are absolutely spectacular,” she says. “I learned valuable leadership and time management skills that will help me in future years to come.”

To reach the target audience, the team created an interactive, kid-friendly website with a vibrant jungle theme and gender-neutral animal characters, as well as a series of articles providing useful information on healthy nutrition and eating disorders. They also explored recipes, recreating a popular snack using alternative, healthier ingredients, and created an app with 13 different games that incorporated important nutritional information.

Meriem worked for hours on developing the games, using vivid colors attractive to young users. “I contributed by writing four articles on healthy eating habits and summarizing the problem and background of our solution,” explains Connie. “I also researched (former First Lady) Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign, alternatives to unhealthy snacks and previous initiatives introducing healthy snacks.” Ibrahim conducted research and contributed extensive data on physical exercise and hydration. “I read articles and answered questions such as how people got their nutrients during the Great Depression, foods that can be cooked at low temperatures as well as foods that keep hydration in your body and more,” he says. Among her many contributions, Amena focused on how to reach the target audience for the app. “I provided my knowledge and skills in business and marketing the product to help us reach children, whether they were high or low-income children, as well as designing the product’s packaging,” she explains.

The team is excited to see their carefully considered, multi-faceted project create social impact, hoping to find ways to even further reduce mental stress and health problems among Hispanic children. In particular, they want to make their website available in Spanish as well as English to expand its reach. “This experience has fostered a deeper understanding of the power of teamwork and its capacity for optimizing collaborative efforts between human agents,” says Lara. “Future pursuits will undoubtedly involve enhanced focus on cooperation among individuals to promote more effective outcomes.”


The Junior Academy was supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute.

You can be it if you see it: Your support is key to guiding kids to STEM

Many students struggle to imagine themselves in a STEM career.

That’s why we are asking for your help today – to make a special year-end gift to give students the chance to learn from, and be inspired by, STEM professionals from a similar background. STEM leaders like Nayem.

During his early years, Nayem’s exposure to STEM subjects was limited and he only developed a passion for science as an undergraduate.

Today Nayem, a PhD student, has returned to the South Bronx elementary school he attended as a kid to give current students the opportunities he didn’t have through the After School STEM Mentoring Program (ASMP).

“I’m giving back to the community I grew up in,” says Nayem. “Growing up in the South Bronx, I feel that if students had the opportunities and the exposure, it could have a big impact on their lives.”

“It is especially rewarding to see the switch that happens several weeks into the program, in students who may not have been very engaged at the beginning,” Nayem says. “You see you’re making a tangible change.”

Please donate today to help more students work with STEM leaders from similar backgrounds and build the essential skills that can help safeguard our health and life on our planet.

Please donate today to help more students work with STEM leaders from similar backgrounds and build the essential skills that can help safeguard our health and life on our planet.

Why 1817 Heritage Society Members support the future of the Academy through a will, trust, retirement plan, or life insurance policy:


“I support the Academy so that young scientists can have the same nurturing environment I enjoyed, so that they can see new opportunities and meet people from all aspects of STEM.”

– CAROLYN J. FOSTER, PHD


Combating COVID-19

The Fight Against COVID-19

From March 25th to May 6th, 2020, over 2000 young innovators from 74 different countries came together to join the fight against COVID-19. In response to the coronavirus outbreak and global shutdown, the New York Academy of Sciences invited creative problem-solvers from around the world to participate in the challenge for a chance to receive a $500 travel scholarship to attend the Global STEM Alliance Summit. The winning solution, GOvid-19, is a virtual assistant and chatbot that provides users with accurate pandemic-related information. Learn more about the winning solution and the solvers who designed them.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a pandemic in March 2020. As scientists and public health experts rush to find solutions to contain the spread, existing and emerging technologies are proving to be valuable. In fact, governments and health care facilities have increasingly turned to technology to help manage the outbreak. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has sparked alarm worldwide. Many countries are grappling with the rise in confirmed cases. It is urgent and crucial for us to discover ways to use technology to contain the outbreak and manage future public health emergencies.

The Challenge

The New York Academy of Sciences invited students ages 13-17 from around the world to participate in an open innovation challenge focused on slowing the spread of COVID-19 through technology-based solutions. Read the full challenge statement including the question and background here.

How It Works

After signing up to participate, students self-selected into teams and worked together on Launchpad, a virtual interactive platform that safely facilitates global collaboration and problem-solving. Using Launchpad, students from around the world participated, in teams or individually, to design a technology-based solution to the challenge question.

Grand Prize Winners

GOvid-19

A virtual assistant that provides users with accurate information about government responses, emergency resources, statistics on COVID-19 while utilizing grassroots feedback, streamlining medical supply chains with blockchain and AI techniques address potential accessibiliy issues among the most vulnerable groups.

Finalists

COVID Warriors – TISB Bangalore

A global centralized contract tracing solution that addresses the underlying issues of existing technology by integrating GPS and Bluetooth as well as combining RSSI modeling with analytics.

COVID COMBATANTS! (NoCOVID)

An AI-supported, 3D-printed rapid serological (saliva) testing kit and chest X-ray scan analyzer that detect SARS-CoV-2 in high-risk individuals, within the in- and out- patient settings.

Tracking Coronavirus

The Fight Against Coronavirus

From May 8th to June 19th, 2020, over 250 innovators from 21 different countries worked together to develop syndromic surveillance systems that help us better understand the current pandemic and prevent future outbreaks. The New York Academy of Sciences invited solvers from around the world to participate in the challenge for a chance to win a $5,000 USD grand prize. The winning solution, SYNSYS: Tracking COVID-19 created by Esha Datanwala, is a syndromic surveillance system that uses online data to predict outbreaks. Learn more about the winning solution and the solver who designed it.

In the last two decades three new Corinaviruses have jumped from animals to humans – called the spillover effect– causing serious illness and fatalities. Scientists and researchers in various sectors are racing to develop treatments and a vaccine while also investigating fundamental questions about the virus such as the seasonality, full range of symptoms, true fatality rate, viral latency, dose response curve of the viral load, long-term immunity, mutation rate etc.

The lack of Syndromic Surveillance for Coronavirus has grossly exposed the global and local preparedness for pandemics making us vulnerable as well as putting extreme stress on our government, healthcare facilities, medical supply demands and economies.

The Challenge

Participants were asked to think critically about the importance of Coronavirus basic research and design a surveillance network to better understand the current pandemic and/or prevent future Coronavirus outbreaks. Read the full challenge statement including the question and background here.

How It Works

After signing up to participate as individuals or teams, solvers worked together on Launchpad, a virtual interactive platform that safely facilitates global collaboration and program solving. Using Launchpad, solvers from around the world participated in teams or individually, to design a solution by answering the question proposed. Ten finalists teams were invited to a Virtual Pitch Event where they presented their model in front of a panel of judges. Watch the Virtual Pitch recording here.

Winners & Finalists

Grand Prize Winner – $5,000 USD

SYNSYS: Tracking COVID-19

SYNSYS is a syndromic surveillance system designed for the public & private healthcare sectors. This system uses public domain mined data from Google Trends, various social media sites, census data, and satellite data to predict outbreaks, both before they happen and while they’re happening.

Team Member: Esha Datanwala

Finalists

Ten finalists teams were invited to present their solution to a panel of judges at the Virtual Pitch Event on July 17th, 2020. You can watch the virtual pitch recording here.

Special Recognition

The judges gave special recognition to this team for its effort to address the fundamental issues regarding syndromic tracking systems.

Audience Favorite

Two teams were voted as the Audience Favorite during the Virtual Pitch Event and received bonus point(s) in the final judging.

Learn more about other finalists’ solutions:

Circular Textiles

Summary

Textiles play a vital role in our lives from our clothes, to our homes to everyday products in the background of our TikTok feed. But how often do we think about those textiles – who made them? How are they made? How do they get from the raw materials to our hands? 

The vast majority of textiles have a linear path – raw materials are made into textiles and then go from the sales rack to the landfill. With the rise of fast fashion and other rapid textile production in different industries, there is an urgent need and business opportunities for innovative, sustainable, and circular flow of textiles within the supply chain. How can we draw upon the concepts of a circular economy and inject innovative approaches to sustainable and circular practices within the textile supply chain. 

Sponsor

Wearables

Eligibility: Open to all students ages 13-17 in the Junior Academy.  

From watches to implants to sensor-enabled clothes, tiny, “wearable” microprocessors are all around us both in consumer and industrial uses. With the explosion of the Internet of Things (IOT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the current and near-future possibilities for wearable technology are only limited by our imagination. Used widely and connected in a network, wearables hold the potential to be powerful tools for responding to some of the world’s trickiest issues.

How could you use today’s wearable devices, or design new wearable technology, to address challenging issues in disaster management or non-communicable diseases?

Partner with Us: School & Community

Our Unique Approach to Working with Teachers, Students and Families

The scientists in the Academy’s network view their job as blend of research and community outreach. Our scientists have a desire to directly engage the public to demystify science and foster science literacy, especially among young people and families. Therefore, our three signature programs — Afterschool STEM Mentoring, Scientist-in-Residence, and Family Science Nights — provide professional scientists with opportunities to do outreach that aligns with their interests as well as their professional time constraints.

Ways to Work with Us

There are several ways external organizations can become involved with our community outreach initiatives.

  • You can sponsor our “Chat with a Scientist” virtual event series, and even collaborate with us to plan the events using subject matter experts in your network who would like to give back to elementary and middle school age students.
  • We can create an Employee Engagement initiative whereby your employees with STEM expertise can be recruited as mentors in either our Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program or our Scientist-in-Residence program.
  • You can support our Family Science Nights as a sponsor or a host venue to hold an FSN at your school, library, or other community center location.
  • We can collaborate to develop a new event series aimed at younger students to spark their curiosity in STEM, or expose them to STEM careers through the eyes of working scientists.

Impact Report

Download the New York Academy of Sciences STEM Education 10-Year Impact Report, 2024.

GENERATION STEMEmpowering Scientists of the Future

Contact

To partner with us to support our School & Community Engagement programs, contact education@nyas.org.

From the Blog

The Junior Academy of The New York Academy of Sciences Announced as Silver Anthem Winner in Education or Literacy Platform for the Third Annual Anthem Awards

New York, NY, January 30, 2024 – The New York Academy of Sciences announced today that its highly regarded Junior Academy has been named the Silver Anthem Winner in Education or Literacy Platform in the Third Annual Anthem Awards. Launched by The Webby Awards in 2021, the Anthem Awards honors mission-driven work of people, companies, and organizations worldwide. This year’s Anthem Award Winners were selected from a pool of over 2,000 submissions from 44 countries by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS).

“Since 2016, over 15,000 students from 100+ countries have participated in the Junior Academy, gaining knowledge while also learning to apply STEM to real-world challenges,” said Meghan Groome, PhD, Senior Vice President of Education at The New York Academy of Sciences. “Through the Junior Academy’s platform Launchpad, students can engage in a world-class science program, meeting students worldwide and gaining technical and fundamental work-ready skills such as collaboration, communication, and problem-solving. We thank our sponsors for making the Junior Academy possible.”

The New York Academy of Sciences’ Junior Academy was relaunched in 2016 as an online community and collaboration platform. It currently has over 2,500 members from over 80 countries. The platform is designed to directly address the opportunity gap between young people who love STEM but have limited opportunities to participate in work-ready programs such as research experiences and internships. The Junior Academy recruits thousands of high school students worldwide who self-assemble into virtual teams through a custom-designed virtual platform called Launchpad to solve real-world problems using STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). Using technology to reach students traditionally shut out of science and STEM careers ensures that any student with internet access can participate in this world-class science program. The goal is to identify and connect the students and give them the tools to solve growing local and global problems. By solving real-world problems, students will build both the technical and soft skills needed for the workforce of the future.

“The Anthem Awards were born out of the desire to amplify and celebrate the voices that are creating sustainable change and to inspire others to take action,” said Patricia McLoughlin, Anthem Awards General Manager. “In a year where so much is at stake, it is incredibly important to recognize impact work and celebrate the progress happening globally. Congratulations to all of this year’s Winners.”


About The Anthem Awards

Launched in 2021 by The Webby Awards, The Anthem Awards honors the purpose and mission-driven work of people, companies and organizations worldwide. The Anthem Awards was launched in response to the prevalence social good has taken within the national conversation and cultural zeitgeist in recent years. By amplifying the voices that spark global change, we’re defining a new benchmark for impactful work that inspires others to take action in their own communities. The Anthem Awards honors work across seven core causes: Diversity; Equity & Inclusion; Education; Art & Culture; Health; Human & Civil Rights; Humanitarian Action & Services; Responsible Technology; and Sustainability, Environment & Climate. Founded in partnership with the Ad Council, Born This Way Foundation, Feeding America, Glaad, Mozilla, NAACP, NRDC, WWF, and XQ.

About The Webby Awards

Hailed as the “Internet’s highest honor” by The New York Times, The Webby Awards is the leading international awards organization honoring excellence on the Internet, including Websites; Video; Advertising, Media & PR; Apps, Mobile, and Voice; Social; Podcasts; and Games. Established in 1996, The Webby Awards received more than 13,500 entries from all 50 states and 70 countries worldwide this year. The Webby Awards are presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS). Sponsors and Partners of The Webby Awards include Verizon, WP Engine, YouGov, Brandlive, Canva, NAACP, KPMG, Fast Company, Wall Street Journal, MediaPost, Podcast Movement, and AIGA.

Media Contact: Kamala Murthy

Email: Kmurthy@nyas.org

Innovation Challenge in Rwanda on “Green Schools, Green Homes, Green Communities”

Young Scientists in Rwanda are Leaders of Environmental Sustainability Movement with STEM Innovation Challenge, Sponsored by Clifford Chance Cornerstone Initiative

The New York Academy of Sciences Green Schools, Green Homes, Green Communities Innovation Challenge in Rwanda was a great success, engaging the participation of 909 local secondary school students from across Kigali, working in 163 teams to create research-driven solutions to environmental problems faced in their community. The Spring 2023 Innovation Challenge, organized by the New York Academy of Sciences in partnership with Association Mwana Ukundwa (AMU), encouraged young scientists aged 13-17 in Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali to design an innovative, sustainable approach to address an environmental challenge in the places where they live and study. Sponsored by the Clifford Chance Cornerstone Initiative, and building off the widespread enthusiasm for the Spring 2022 Innovation Challenge on Urban Gardens in Rwanda, this challenge latest green challenge called for creative, practical solutions that could be implemented in Rwandan schools, homes, and communities to turn environmental challenges into sustainable growth.

The students from 12 public schools in Kigali who took part in the Green Schools, Green Homes, Green Communities Innovation Challenge contributed to raising awareness of the environmental challenges facing Rwanda and the rest of the world. They researched problems related to environmental sustainability, brainstormed with teammates to design and test creative solutions, and created scientific presentations to communicate their ideas to their peers and community. Each team was guided in their efforts by dedicated teachers from the twelve participating schools who served as Mentors to the students and supported them through developing their research projects.

Young Scientists Innovate Practical Solutions through Research and Creativity

Over the past two decades, Rwanda has become a global leader in sustainable development after adopting economic growth strategies that incorporate environmental protection and climate change adaptation. As a small, landlocked country, Rwanda faces numerous challenges due to climate change, the unequal distribution of potable water and the over-exploitation of natural resources.

A growing number of individuals, young people in particular, are exploring innovative ways to address these problems and create meaningful change at the local and community level. As emerging leaders in the movement to prevent environmental degradation and promote sustainability, the young scientists participating in the challenge demonstrated that through ingenuity and hard work, practical solutions can be found to make homes, schools and communities greener and reduce the pressure on precious natural resources and the environment.

The Winning Team and selected Runner-Up Teams were invited to present their innovative solutions at the Open Day celebration for the challenge held at AMU. They showcased their projects to an audience of over a thousand people including their families, all of the students in the challenge, educators and school leaders from the participating schools, and government officials, including the Coordinator of the Joint Action Development Forum from the Office of the Mayor in Kigali and the Director of Education for the entire Kicukiro district. The scientific solutions from these students have been taken up and used by residents across Rwanda to improve wellbeing, public health, and economic and environmental sustainability.

Winning Team: Sustainable Resource Management and Conservation for Achieving Green Homes and Green Communities

Team Members: Clarisse (Team Lead), Leandre, Joyeuse, Mucyo, Ayubu, Jolie
Mentor: Nizeyimana Bonaventure

The winning team tackled the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of traditional cooking methods, which rely heavily on firewood. The widespread use of wood for cooking contributes to deforestation and produces harmful gas emissions. Wood burning also causes air pollution within the home, which has a detrimental impact on human health and is linked to pneumonia, lung cancer and other severe health conditions.

The team members’ solution was to build an innovative stove, using affordable materials, to reduce fuel consumption. After conducting research to come up with an optimal design, the students crafted a stove made of iron sheeting and lined with clay. They incorporated an electronic fan, which enhances combustion efficiency. After testing their prototype, the team found that their device significantly reduces fuel consumption, thus limiting the impact on the environment. Shorter cooking times and better heat control also improve indoor air quality while easing the cooking burden for household members. The team won first place for this original project, which helps combat deforestation, the health impacts of air pollution and the inefficient use of natural resources.

Runner-Up Team: Green Surrounding Us

Team Members: Emerance (Team Lead), Leogad, Diane, Solange, Alliance
Mentor: Baseka Didier

Many people in Rwanda suffer from the searing summer heat and lack of cool air indoors, whether in houses or at school where it affects students and administration employees. In the course of their research, the team members found out that a majority of people around the world experience lack of access to indoor fresh, cool air. “I was very interested in this project. We had fun and did hard work in the group, brainstorming and searching for a solution,” says team member Alliance. After collecting information online and interviewing local environmental experts, the team members designed and produced a light, portable fan with blades made of discarded cardboard. Powered by a rechargeable battery and equipped with an on/off switch, the fan provides hours of cool relief, and the reused cardboard does not end up in landfill.

Runner-Up Team: Amazing Green

Team Members: Nice (Team Lead), Jeannette, Ange Scovia, Chanisse, Rosine, Beatrice
Mentor: Baseka Didier

The students in this team focused on improving their school environment by tackling two challenges at once: reducing waste and creating storage to improve order in the classroom. “Me and my teammates have gained many things from this project,” says team leader Nice. “Working together, we have learned to be part of society and care about others’ attitudes.” Collecting plastic bottles and old cardboard to prevent them from littering the environment, the team members upcycled these materials by crafting shelf racks to store documents and other school supplies. The students applied their math and science skills to design the racks and used the plastic bottles to prop up cardboard shelves. “I was given the responsibility to find cardboard in my group and I really studied to create teamwork in the group,” says team member Ange Scovia. “I had fun and laughed a lot during this project.” The sturdy shelf racks were designed to bear a weight of up to 4 kilograms and last 3 to 5 years. As proof of concept, the team produced a prototype, demonstrating that their model is both easy and inexpensive to replicate.

Runner-Up Team: Sustainable Life in the Green Community from Discarded Material

Team Members: Jean-Marie (Team Lead), Fils, Anna Jali, Emmanuel, Naomi, Amani
Mentor: Rubarema Maurice

The six team members first studied the impact of waste on the environment by observing the evolution of different types of waste on two small plots of land: they saw that organic kitchen waste decayed and turned into compost that contains important nutrients for plants, but plastic containers and plastic bags remained intact, cluttering the ground and preventing plant growth by blocking access to carbon dioxide and sunlight. After consulting experts, the team came up with three practical uses for recycled plastic containers. First, they used old jerrycans to grow plants, particularly vegetables — an approach that enables households with limited access to land to supplement their diet with healthy, home-grown food. The jerrycans were also utilized as composting receptacles to turn kitchen waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer and as containers for smaller plastic waste. “Before doing this challenge, I was not good at working collaboratively in a team,” explains team member Emmanuel. “This challenge made me realize that working together leads to the best solutions because different ideas are collected together to create the main idea.”

Runner-Up Team: Terracing to Prevent Soil Erosion

Team Members: Ally (Team Lead), Anaclet, Nelly Chanella, Jean-Baptiste, Fabrice, Fidele
Mentor: Karangwa Adiel

Soil erosion is a problem caused by rainwater and human activities such as agriculture and deforestation. The members of this team were inspired to tackle this pressing issue largely because soil erosion caused by an inadequate drainage system threatens their school. “With the team I found new friends and I did my best to give ideas and contribute to the design of the solution,” says team member Jean Baptiste. After visiting the site and building model terraces on the hillside, the students found that terracing reduces the steepness of the slope and slows down the water flow, preventing rain from washing away the topsoil and crucial nutrients. In addition, planting fruit trees and crops on the terraces contributes to a greener school environment and provides healthy food. In the course of the project, participants acquired both knowledge and self-confidence. “I was very shy at the beginning of the project,” says team member Nelly Chanella, “but now I can engage in constructive discussions.”

Runner-Up Team: Green Operation

Team Members: Liliane (Team Lead), Yvan, Zainah, Djuma, Elisaa, Diane
Mentor: Musenge Hosiane

This team focused on the water pollution caused by the ever-growing use of plastic bottles, which are almost indestructible and often end up in the ocean. When the bottles do eventually decompose, the plastics break down into micro-particles that seep into the soil and drift into the waterways, causing harm to humans and other animals. To reduce waste and water pollution, the six team members sought innovative ways to reuse plastic bottles and jerrycans while also improving their school environment. They turned used plastic containers into pencil holders and receptacles for school supplies to keep classrooms well organized and clean. Their efforts also showed their fellow students how to recycle effectively to reduce water pollution and protect the environment. “Being a first-year member of the New York Academy Innovation Challenge has been an unforgettable journey that has helped me hone my skills and make friends that will last a lifetime,” says team leader Liliane, adding, “I met hardworking individuals who helped me improve my own skills and taught me many valuable lessons in teamwork and analytical thinking.”

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