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Solar Project Takes Youth to Discovery Channel Young Science Challenge

October 04, 2005

Intel, ASU provide resources to help teachers succeed


Garrett Yazzie, an eighth grader from the Pinon Accelerated Middle School in Arizona, never thought that a rubber inner tube from his bike wheel, a 1967 Pontiac radiator, 69 aluminum cans, a plastic funnel, a piece of plexiglass and his interest in science would take him far. But together all of it is taking him to Washington, D.C., to take part in the Discovery Channel Young Science Challenge (DCYSC) on Oct. 15-19.

Last spring, Garrett participated for the first time in the third annual Arizona American Indian Science and Engineering Fair (AISEF), sponsored by Intel and hosted by Arizona State University's American Indian Programs. Competing against 81 other seventh and eighth graders, he unveiled his science project titled "Using Solar Energy to Heat Water". He took first place in his category, which was engineering.

Garrett's project also won first place in its category and a Best of Show award at the Middle School Discovery Fair as part of Intel's International Science and Engineering Fair held in May 2005 at the Civic Plaza in Phoenix.

Students who placed first at the AISEF science fair were eligible to apply to the Discovery Channel Young Science Challenge, with their teacher's assistance. More than 7,500 eligible students from all over the country in the seventh and eighth grade were nominated for the DCYSC. Garrett is one of the 40 finalists selected to take part in the Science Challenge event in October.

"My project is about using the sun's light ray (shani diin — Navajo for sun) energy to heat air and water," says Garrett. "My project can help save people money because other forms of energy are getting expensive these days."

Garrett adds that his invention can help a number of people living in his community. "Since there are a lot of homes here on the Navajo Reservation without running water or electricity, my homemade heater can help them heat well water and also their home."

According to his data, his window-size invention can heat water to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (94 degrees Celsius) and the air temperature can rise by 45 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius). He says his mother and his science teachers influenced him the most by discussing the importance of an education as well as encouraging him to construct things.

"What I enjoyed most about the project is that I got to build the entire thing myself. I also liked collecting the data and seeing that the heater actually worked. The results really took me by surprise," says Garrett.

He is the first student from Pinon and the first AISEF participant to ever be selected as one of the finalists to participate in the national Science Challenge event.

With the support of Intel and ASU, the American Indian Programs at the Polytechnic campus has been providing teachers in school districts located on reservations in bordering states and in Arizona, including Pinon, with the tools and resources to effectively teach science and math, hold science fairs at the school and district levels, and encourage students to participate in the AISEF every year.

One of Garrett's teachers, Rochelle Barton-Silver, has benefited from these programs. "We could not have achieved such success without the help of ASU American Indian Programs and Intel," says Barton-Silver. "We begin with a vision that our students would produce award-winning, inquiry-based science projects that are relevant to the community. It's exciting to see our vision come full circle."

Garrett's accomplishments will have a major impact on this developing school and the community, according to Peterson Zah, advisor to ASU's President on American Indian Initiatives.

"Garret's achievements will encourage an outpouring of support, and his community will rally around what he did and make the school a better place. Garrett's success is the little spark needed to make changes – to make Pinon a higher achieving institution," says Zah.

Garrett's mother and one of his mentors will be traveling to Washington, D.C., with him for support, however, he seems pretty confident and prepared.

"I believe that my project and I will do well because my project helps the environment, it is cost efficient and can be used by just about anyone who wants to use alternative energy," says Garrett. "All the effort put into this project is worth the success!"