AAAS Science Project/Unisys prize encourages student-led scientific inquiry on flight to soar

December 02, 2002

One hundred years after the dreams and hard work of two brothers gave us the airplane's historic first flight, middle- and high-school students nationwide are dreaming up new projects that would make the Wright Brothers proud. With just a click of a computer mouse, the students will demonstrate what it means to fly-and show how their own imaginations have soared in the process, as part of a national science celebration.

Representing 10 cities and towns throughout the country, the students will team with local museums to compete for the $10,000 Unisys Prize for Online Science Education, which honors exemplary use of the Web as a tool for science investigation. The competition-celebrating "Taking Flight!"-is the culmination of a national educational program administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific organization, and publisher of the journal, Science.

The mission of the AAAS/Unisys science program is to raise public awareness for the need to bolster science education, and to heighten enthusiasm for science and technology learning for all students. The program is administered by AAAS in collaboration with The Franklin Institute Science Museum and Unisys Corporation, and in affiliation with the Science Learning Network.

Student learning statistics clearly point to the need for greater awareness of science education issues: In 1995, the Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) showed that while U.S. fourth-graders scored above the international average in science and mathematics, eighth-grade students scored far below their international counterparts, and twelfth-grade students languished at the bottom of the chart. A follow-up study in 1999 revealed no improvement in the U.S. students' level of achievement from 1995 to 1999.

Working with local museums, each team of five or more students in grades 7-12 will unleash their imaginations as they pursue scientific inquiry related to flight. For example:The ten museums selected to partner with local kids to participate in the 2002/2003 AAAS national science project and compete for the Unisys Prize are: Austin Nature & Science Center (Austin, TX); Liberty Science Center (Jersey City, NJ); Long Island Museum of Science and Technology (Garden City, NY); Museum of Science and History (Jacksonville, FL); Museum of Science and Industry (Portland, OR); Orlando Science Center (Orlando, FL); Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (Chicago, IL); Pittsburgh Children's Museum (Pittsburgh, PA); Science Museum of Minnesota (Saint Paul, MN); and Virginia Air and Space Museum (Hampton, VA).

Students, educators, and the general public are invited to track the students' progress by clicking on In celebration of Public Science Day, March 20, 2003, students across the country will share their flight-inspired Web sites at community events in their local areas, and will post their results on the Web to share with the world. A panel of science and educational experts will judge the sites, and a winner will be named in late March.

"The goal of the program is to provide students with hands-on opportunities for computer-based discoveries," said Gaynelle Bowden, AAAS project manager. "By sparking student excitement about technology and personal achievement, AAAS believes that science and technology will come to life for these young people. We want to keep them interested in technology, and in pursuing their dreams of accomplishment-just as the Wright Brothers did when they invented powered flight nearly 100 years ago."
Founded in 1848, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) works to advance science for human well-being through its projects, programs and publication in the areas of science policy, science education and international scientific coo0peraiton. The association also publishes Science, an editorially independent, multidisciplinary, weekly peer-reviewed journal that ranks as the world's most prestigious scientific journal and administers EurekAlert! (, the online news service featuring the latest discoveries in science and technology.

Unisys is a worldwide information technology services and solutions company whose 39,000 people help clients in more than 100 countries utilize technology to seize opportunities, overcome challenges and succeed in the global economy. The company offers a rich portfolio of business solutions led by its expertise in consulting and systems integration, outsourcing, network services and security, coupled with leading enterprise class server and related technologies. Unisys is headquartered in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, in the Greater Philadelphia area.

The Franklin Institute Science Museum was founded in 1824 in Philadelphia, and is today recognized for its innovative science education programs and for developing museum-school partnerships that have become national models for innovative teacher development and hands-on science in the classroom. The Institute also promotes and perpetuates the legacy of Benjamin Franklin through major awards honoring achievement in science and in business leadership.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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