Second Grade Scientists Win Siemens “We Can Change The World” Challenge
The Concord Hill Greenies were awarded first prize for their project “Zero Miles Per Gallon” in the Siemens 2011 “We Can Change the World” Challenge for Kindergarten through second grade.
The Greenies solved a long-standing environmental problem at the school. They reduced the amount of time cars were idling in the parking lot during dismissal, which in turn reduced the amount of pollution from the cars.
The students learned that an idling car gets zero miles per gallon, yet still produces 20 pounds of carbon dioxide for every gallon of gas it burns. To help solve the issue of cars lining up and idling in the parking lot at dismissal, the team turned to queuing theory, which provides a way to analyze queues or lines with the goal of making them move faster and more efficiently.
The team collected data on the number and patterns of cars idling and interviewed teachers to get their input on how to improve the pickup system. The team’s research showed that on a typical Friday, each car would idle in the parking lot for more than seven minutes. Collectively, the cars were burning more than 6 gallons of gasoline every Friday.
The team performed simulations in their after-school meetings to develop the best solution for efficiency and reduction of car idling. They changed the pickup procedure to stagger pickup times and communicated the change with parents through weekly messages. Additionally, the students created an educational video that was shown to the school community to inform students and parents about the pollution from idling cars and their solution. When the science team tested its solution in March, compliance was nearly 97%. The team collected data and found that cars spent 70% less time idling than before the campaign, significantly reducing the amount of pollution produced by idling cars at their school.
The team was composed of 13 second graders and was led by Tracy Yaffe, Ph.D., science and math teacher and Jack Daggitt, parent volunteer/mentor.
Kids Solve the Carpool Problem
was a feature article in the Kids Post.