From all corners of the globe they will come. "The Double Sided Shovel Holding Pollution Pilfering Power Pandas of Poseidon," "Dancing Plastic Sea Squirrels," "The Amazing Chocolate and Rainbow-loving Norwals." Hailing from Atherton to Los Gatos to Union City. Quebec, Canada, Maharashtra, India, New York and San Diego, too.
Nearly 1,200 students - nearly half of whom are girls - will sail into The Tech Museum Saturday, April 30, to vie for top honors in The Tech Challenge 2011 - the Bay Area's largest team-design science competition meant to solve a real-world problem.
Set against a soggy nautical backdrop - fitted with lobster crates, ship bells and ropes and the sounds of the sea - the competition will host nearly 270 teams in their quest to clean up Trash Island: The Great Pacific Gyre. The whirling vortex is trapping human-produced trash, mostly plastic bits, and is ruining marine habitats and poisoning plants and animals - as well as humans.
And each team, with its gaudy, tongue-in-cheek costumes, singsong chants and precisely choreographed dance routines, promises not only to entertain but to match geek wits before a crowd of 4,000 as they contend for titles such as "Best Overall Solution," "Best Team Name" and the only-at-The-Tech-Museum's "Most Spectacular Failure."?
"The spirit of Silicon Valley will be pulsating from The Tech Challenge event," says the program's executive director, David Whitman. "It is an uplifting experience, one that gives us a high-energy glimpse into the future."
The Tech Challenge, presented by Cisco, is a signature program of The Tech Museum. The challenge introduces and reinforces the scientific process with a hands-on team project geared to solve a real-world problem. Through the competition, students are introduced to science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM), acquiring key skills for a 21st century global society.
The project-based nature of the competition distinguishes it from many other science-based programs for youth in grades 5 through 12. For more than two decades, The Tech Challenge has allowed some 14,000 youth throughout California, New York and other regions to hone their creativity and innovation on challenges that included building devices to fight wildfires, remove invasive fish from a lake, explore an Egyptian tomb and survey craters on Mars.
This year, girls will make up or be exclusive members of 45 percent of the 263 teams trying to solve this year's challenge - the most ever. And, in another first, a home-schooled duo will fly in from Maharashtra, India, just to compete. A team from Quebec, Canada will compete via video.
As the world economy becomes increasingly driven by technology, it is vitally important to break down barriers early on and to introduce and encourage students to the field through events such as The Tech Challenge and other school-related opportunities. The competition is also leveling the playing field by hosting more Title I schools and low-income after-school programs than any other Bay Area science contest - one reason Cisco has elected to be the presenting sponsor of the contest.
"The Tech Challenge provides students from all socio-economic backgrounds with a safe, entertaining and hands-on opportunity to engage in science, technology, engineering and math," said Sandra Wheatley, director, global community relations, Cisco. "The projects that participants lead foster creativity, innovation and skills that are essential to the students' later success in the global economy."
The annual challenge has had lasting impact on students, widening their worldview and instructing them more about themselves and one another.
"We knew from the beginning that The Tech Challenge was not designed as simply a competition for competition's sake. We signed up for it knowing and hoping for experiences that would change how we thought about each other and the world, and we were not disappointed," wrote 2009 "Best Overall Solution" winners the Funky Shiitake Mushrooms of Mission San Jose High School in Fremont. "The Tech Challenge has helped us develop a unique team chemistry fostered from collaboration and our own individual abilities."
Nearly 1,200 students, thousands of parents and siblings, several elected officials and corporate sponsor representatives (including Blair Christie of Cisco, Roger Quinlan of SAP)
24th Annual The Tech Challenge: "Trash Island: The Great Pacific Gyre" WHERE: The Tech Museum, 201 S. Market St., San Jose (Parkside Hall)
9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., Saturday, April 30
For more information about The Tech Challenge, visit: www.thetech.org
Lead sponsors of The Tech Challenge are: SAP, Motorola Foundation and S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. Other corporate sponsors include: Intel, EMC, JP Morgan Chase, Fairchild Semiconductor, Wells Fargo, Tellabs Foundation, Xilinx, Ernst & Young, The Tech Museum's Emeritus Board, Amgen, Symantec, SanDisk, TE Connectivity, Flextronics, Lockheed Martin, Technology Credit Union, PMC-Sierra, IBM, Sony Electronics, Hitachi Data Systems, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Integrated Device Technology, ScholarShare, The David H. Liu Foundation, AMD, ADC Foundation, DeVry University, SDForum Tech Women's Program, Team San Jose, NBC Bay Area, KTSF, Make: makezine.com, Bay Area News Group.
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About The Tech Museum
The Tech Museum is a hands-on technology and science museum for people of all ages and backgrounds. The museum-located in the Capital of Silicon Valley -is a non-profit learning resource established to engage people in exploring and experiencing technologies affecting their lives. Through programs such as The Tech Challenge, our annual team design competition for youth, and internationally renowned programs such as The Tech Awards presented by Applied Materials, Inc., The Tech Museum celebrates the present and encourages the development of innovative ideas for a more promising future.