After spending nine days working with National Geographic grantees at MIT or the University of Colorado Boulder, these students developed proposals for projects based on the skills they learned during their experience on campus. They were given grants from National Geographic to implement these projects back home, and will be working on them throughout the coming year!

Grant Recipient: Katya P.PastedGraphic-1

Grant Project: Saving the Monarch

Concerned about the plight of the endangered monarch butterfly, Katya will work with the Agent de Protection de l’Environment in Montreal to plant a milkweed garden, the main source of food for the monarch caterpillar. Katya will work with other students in the area to maintain the garden, as well as photograph and collect data on the caterpillars throughout the year.  This information will be used by the Montreal Insectariam’s Mission Monarch program to help protect the species.

How did you develop the idea for your grant project?

One evening, I was in our Boulder classroom trying to come up with a good capstone project, and I remembered taking walks around my neighborhood and seeing wild milkweed plants growing in a small wooded area. Despite their presence, I hadn’t seen any monarch butterflies last summer. I knew that their numbers are on the decline in the area that I live in and decided that I could try and raise awareness about their situation and how people could help them.

How did participating in the Boulder program impact the way you see the world? 

I learned a lot during my trip to Boulder. The program included traditional classroom educational experience with visits to institutions like the INSTAAR lab and the Mountain Research Center and also through the stories of the experts that spoke to our group. But it also taught me lessons that no classroom experience can, like how to be independent and how to interpret and act on what I see and learn about in the field. My trip opened my eyes, and now I know that if I take some initiative and act in collaboration with others, I can help improve situations like that of the plight of the monarch.

What inspires you?

When I see people acting on what they believe in. Taking initiative is often difficult, which is why I am always impressed and motivated to try it myself when I see others accomplishing this daring feat. I think that carrying out my grant project will help me take action more often and hopefully inspire someone else to do the same about a cause that is close to their hearts.


Grant Recipient: Frank Z.Frank_FullSizeRender 2

Grant Project: Energy Conservation through Piezoelectrics

During his Student Expeditions program at MIT, Frank learned about piezoelectrics, a product that takes kinetic energy and turns it into electricity.  To raise awareness about this technology, Frank will use his grant to design and create a “piezo rug” for his school.  It will be placed in a high-traffic area so students can help generate electricity throughout the day, and then use the electricity to charge their laptops, photos, etc.  He’ll also create a small exhibit about the rug so students can understand how it works.

How did participating in the MIT program impact the way you see the world?

The trip to the Media Lab at MIT inspired me a lot. At the beginning of trip, I noticed that not all the designs and inventions in the Media Lab could change the world suddenly, and that what actually changes the world is the spirit of constantly seeking the solution for tiny problems.  It makes me believe that as an individual, I can create things that actually influence the world.

Why do you think it’s important for high school students to give back to their communities?

As a boarding school student, I’m really close to my school community. By bringing this project to my community, it will not only have an economic benefit, but even more importantly, an educational benefit. I hope that my design will inspire other students who have same ability like me, to try to solve contemporary problems.

What has been your greatest adventure so far in life?

My greatest adventure so far has been studying abroad in the United States. I know that a lot of international students say that, but it’s true!  Studying independently, which is not as prevalent in the Chinese education system, has made me who I am today. It has given me confidence to achieve my personal goals.


Grant Recipient: Whitney E.

Grant Project: Fighting Food Waste

Whitney would like to get all of the schools in her district involved with an organization called Community Plates, and with her grant, will be running seminars for teachers and students, as well as creating a website with information on how to transport leftover food from grocery stores and school to shelters and food banks.

How did you develop the idea for your grant project?

The idea for my grant project grew out of an Independent Study I conducted at school, where I studied hunger in Connecticut with a focus on access to nutrition. In my research, I reached out to lots of local hunger relief nonprofits until I became involved with a food rescue organization called Community Plates. Food rescue entails transporting edible, unused food from supermarkets to local food banks, and after participating in their “food runs” for a few months, I decided to start a food run at my own school. My grant project was inspired by this run that I created at my school and my desire to see food rescue and food waste relief efforts spread to other schools in my town.

Why do you think it’s important for high school students to give back to their communities?

High school is a time when kids can really start to lead change and make a difference in the world around them. We are able to really start seeing and identifying the issues that we passionately care about, and then taking action is a big part of growing into adulthood and becoming a leader in your community. I think it’s important for people to give back to their communities at all ages, but high school is a particularly important time to really start having an impact, at least at a local level.

Where do you hope to be in the future?

I don’t yet know what career I hope to go into, but I do know that whatever I end up doing is going to be impactful. Part of the reason I love community service is because it makes me feels as if I am acting as a force of positive change and makes me feel that me work is meaningful to someone either than just myself. I am interested in exploring both law, business and maybe even biology because I enjoy the feeling of creating something that is hopefully helping someone for the better or doing something that is making the world a more productive place.



Grant Recipient: Desmond M. image1_Desmond

Grant Project: Open Source Renewable Energy Curriculum

With his grant, Desmond will design a water turbine that students can use to charge their phones.  He’ll then work with local teachers to develop an associated educational curriculum, which will be distributed to teachers and students, perhaps even on National Geographic’s education website.

How did you develop the idea for your grant project?

I first heard about renewable energy and climate change in a biology class I took as a Freshman in high school. The topics in class excited me, but I noticed that many of the students in the classroom were uninterested, and it worried me that many students walk out of high school unaware of the impact their actions have on others and the environment.  I noticed that many students are more invested in hands-on projects rather than lectures, and I want more people to know about hydrodynamics, so I came up with the idea for the Water Turbine Kit.

Why do you think it’s important for high school students to give back to their communities?

I had never truly witnessed the value of giving back until I met my leaders on the student expedition trip at MIT. Our leaders had just as much fun as the rest of the students. If I had such a great time with my group leaders, then why can’t I be a leader to someone else? I can give back to my community in my own way, whether it be leading a youth group or tutoring a math student. We are learning and growing together, which is why it’s so important, and fun, to give back to your community.

What has been your greatest adventure so far in life?

By far, it has been my student expedition at MIT. It was the farthest I have ever been from home, and it was the most fulfilling adventure I have ever had. I learned many things that I will never forget, I saw parts of the world I don’t think I ever would have seen otherwise, and most importantly, I met so many people that were a huge inspiration to me.


Grant Recipient: Patrick M.Pic1_Patrick

Grant Project: Computer Science Club

During our MIT program, Expert Caleb Harper shared that he thinks learning coding languages is as important for students as learning foreign languages.  Patrick took this to heart, and is going to launch a club in his high school focused on teaching the Arduino, Scratch, and Raspberry Pi coding languages to elementary schools.

How did participating in the MIT program impact the way you see the world?

I met so many great people from the United States and around the world during the program, and their views and experiences broadened my view of the world.  While at the MIT Media Lab, I learned about advanced technology, and saw how it can benefit the world. This glimpse into the future inspired me to learn as much as possible.  The MIT campus showed me how awe-inspiring technology research can be.

Why do you think it’s important for high school students to give back to their communities?

When we have strong communities, students can become their true selves.  It’s important to leave a positive legacy in your community, so future students can benefit and thrive.

Where do you hope to be in the future?

I plan to study engineering and computer science, and hope to pursue a career in these areas.   I plan to work to develop more advanced forms of technology that can aid the advancement of society.


Grant Recipients: Isabella R. and Myles R.

Grant Project: STEM Toys for Boston Children’s HospitalIMG_8267

Isabella and Myles know how important music, art, and theater programs are to children undergoing extended treatment in children’s hospitals. But the brother/sister team also noted the lack of science education in these programs.  With their grant, they’ll work with the Boston Children’s hospital to design a Solar Toy Kit (which they’ve already prototyped!), and then organize a hands-on workshop in the hospital, introducing kids to the power of solar energy and building toys completely powered by solar.

How did you develop the idea for your grant project?

We wanted our project to be achievable and actually have a positive impact on others.  Our older sister has volunteered at Boston Children’s Hospital, and we remembered the stories she would come home and tell at the dinner table about the lack of interesting activities for the kid patients- during treatment they missed school and all their extracurricular activities . We see evidence of renewable energy everywhere right now- from solar panels on the roofs of our houses in our neighborhood to wind turbines dotting the ridges of small hills in and around Boston and Cape Cod. These visual reminders of the power of renewable energy gave us the idea of perhaps creating an interesting and fun STEM activity using solar toys with the child patients at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Why do you think it’s important for high school students to give back to their communities?

As high school students, we represent the next generation. We might not even be the next generation – we are the NOW generation. Our time is here and we are more than capable of being positive contributors to our communities. Public service a huge part of being an effective 21st century leader. Both Myles and I take this responsibility seriously and we hope to continue the long tradition of public service that exists in our family.

Where do you hope to be in the future?

We just want to keep exploring, keep learning, keep pushing ourselves to be our very best each and every day. The only thing Bella and I know for sure is that we will both make service and giving back to our communities a core part of how we live our lives.