Creativity and passion to make a difference are exemplified by the five students and three educators who have been named winners of 2016 Da Vinci Science Center Hall of Fame Awards.
A middle school student, three high school students, and three teachers will be honored along with the Da Vinci Science Center’s 2016 corporate and community award winners during the organization’s annual gala on Saturday, May 14, at the Renaissance Allentown Hotel.
The Da Vinci Science Center has bestowed its Hall of Fame Awards annually since 1999 to educators, high school students, professionals, companies, and community leaders who bring science to life and bring lives to science throughout eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey. Corporate and community honorees are chosen by the Executive Committee of the Center’s Board of Trustees. Student and educator honorees are chosen by the Center’s Hall of Fame selection committees.
Creative accomplishments of this year’s student and educator honorees include the invention of a hair brush that could keep floors clean from fallen hair, a state championship-winning robotics and coding team, a giant wooden underwater cello, and a new high-tech method for fighting terrorism.
“The insatiable curiosity, ingenuity, and desire to create new things that benefit others embodied by our student and educator award winners demonstrates the exciting possibilities that the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – offer each and every day,” said Lin Erickson, Da Vinci Science Center Executive Director and CEO. “These students and teachers provide vibrant and inspiring proof that our greater Lehigh Valley community is filled with the same pioneering and unstoppable spirit that humanity has harnessed to cure disease, span the oceans, and explore distant planets.”
Vidhyasai Annem, an eighth grade student at Springhouse Middle School in the Parkland School District, will receive the 2016 Young Scientist Award. She is a graduate of the Center’s Inventor’s Lab Program and winner of the program’s Most Patentable Idea Award in 2014. She has earned a provisional United States Patent for her invention of a multiple-section hair brush that keeps stray hair from falling to the floor through use of a special fluid.
Four high school students will receive the Center’s 2016 Student Excellence Awards. The honorees are as follows:
- Sydney Anderson, a senior at Easton Area High School in Easton, Pa.
- Samuel Li, a senior at Moravian Academy in Bethlehem, Pa.
- Erin Solomon, a senior at Souderton Area High School in Souderton, Pa.
- Yogeshwar Velingker, a junior at Parkland High School in Allentown, Pa.
Sydney Anderson volunteered at the Da Vinci Science Center in the summer of 2015 and was inspired to create her own camp for elementary school students called Growing the STEM. With a variety of hands-on activities and lessons, her camp helped kids become familiar with, and excited about, the scientific method.
Samuel Li created Moravian Academy’s first Science Olympiad team, which offered his schoolmates invaluable learning experiences. He and a friend also created an SAT tutoring company that provides peer-to-peer mentoring at affordable prices.
Erin Solomon has challenged herself each year since entering middle school by designing her own science project to test any theory or question she desires. One of these projects led her to develop a new type of flexible, plasma-based solar energy cells. She also pours creativity into her performances as an award-winning jazz trumpet player.
Yogeshwar Velingker is a founder of the Lehigh Math Circle, a club that encourages middle school students to enjoy exploring advanced mathematics on a peer-to-peer basis. He also has created his school’s Physics Club and is working to develop a computer-based tool that detects and analyzes unconscious patterns of human behavior and applies its findings to combat terrorism and other sophisticated crimes.
Three teachers will receive the Center’s 2016 Educator Excellence Awards. The honorees are as follows:
- Michael Brolly, a wood arts teacher at Moravian Academy in Bethlehem, Pa.
- Julia Dweck, a gifted and talented specialist at Willow Lane Elementary School in Macungie, Pa.
- Carla Rodrigues, a second grade teacher at F.A. March Elementary School in Easton, Pa.
During his tenure of more than 12 years at Moravian Academy, Michael Brolly and students have built a boat that was turned into a giant cello. Brolly will take the boat, called The Musical Ark, this summer to Fogo Island in Newfoundland, Canada, and attempt to attract humpback whales that populate the area’s waters.
Julia Dweck’s contribution to science education includes establishing Willow Lane’s Wonder League Robotics teams. One of those teams, Wonder Dash, won the robotics and coding competition’s Pennsylvania State Championship and finished third in the nation. Dweck also was a driving force in creating her school’s Makers and Shakers Faire for students and families.
Carla Rodrigues earned cash grants to create opportunities for low-income students to participate in a local Odyssey of the Mind competition – an annual contest in which students solve complex challenges with STEM skills and other problem-solving abilities. Rodrigues also has created a book donation project that allows students from underserved communities to take books home for free and a variety of engaging lessons for students that combine STEM topics with a rich appreciation for the arts.
The Center’s 2016 corporate and community honorees, announced in Dec. 2015, include the organization’s Founding Chairman, J. Robert Lovett, Ph.D., who will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award; Karen S. Angello, Ph.D., former Superintendent of the Allentown School District and former Da Vinci Science Center Trustee, who will receive the Spirit of Verrocchio Mentorship Award; UGI Utilities, Inc., which will receive the Grand Maestro Corporate Award; and Sally Gammon, former President and CEO of Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network, who will receive a special topic Distinguished Female STEM Leadership Award.
The annual Da Vinci Science Center Hall of Fame Gala is the independent nonprofit organization’s flagship fundraising event. Event proceeds support the Center’s exhibits and programs that bring science to life every day for children of all backgrounds and socioeconomic status and inspire them to explore careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The black-tie-optional evening includes the presentation of the annual Hall of Fame Awards, a cocktail hour, dinner, silent auction, live auction, and special pledge appeal.
Individuals and companies interested in sponsoring the gala or purchasing tickets are encouraged to call the Center’s Development Office at 484.664.1002, Ext. 102, or to visit davincisciencecenter.org/gala.
News Media Contact @DSC: Dennis Zehner
, 484.664.1002, Ext. 112
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Image Courtesy: Julia Dweck