DuPont Challenge Essay Winners Honored at Kennedy Space Center

Student Winners Focus on How to Make the World a Better, Safer Place

WILMINGTON, Del., May 7, 2014 – Today DuPont announced the winners and honorable mentions of The 2014 DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition. Out of the nearly 10,000 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) essays submitted by middle and high school students from across the United States and Canada, six winners were chosen for their excellence in research and writing. Winning students and their sponsoring teachers were honored at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 2, where Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana addressed the winners as the keynote speaker.

Students were asked to submit their essays in one of the four following categories: Together, we can feed the world; Together, we can build a secure energy future; Together, we can protect people and the environment; and Together, we can be innovative anywhere. Students researched how science and innovation can be used to meet the needs of the 21st century for food, energy and protection, and many conducted their own experiments.

“The innovative thinking of The DuPont Challenge essay winners clearly demonstrates how students can envision ways to solve some of the biggest challenges facing our world,” said Benito Cachinero-Sánchez, senior vice president of DuPont Human Resources. “It is gratifying to see so many students across the country participate in The DuPont Challenge and use STEM-based problem-solving skills, which are essential for both today’s and tomorrow’s workforce.”  

The DuPont Challenge offers more than $100,000 in total prizes and awards. In each division, the first place winner receives a $5,000 U.S. Savings Bond, the second place winner receives a $3,000 U.S. Savings Bond, the third place winner receives a $1,000 U.S. Savings Bond, and the honorable mentions receive a $200 U.S. Savings Bond (all amounts at maturity).

The top three winners in each division receive reference materials for their school from Britannica Digital Learning, as well as school subscriptions to online resource collections from NBC Learn. The six winners also receive an expenses-paid awards trip to Orlando and Kennedy Space Center. Additionally, each sponsoring science teacher of the first place winner in each division will receive an expenses-paid trip to the 2015 NSTA National Conference.

William (Ray) Duan, a junior at Irvington High School in Fremont, Calif., took first place in the senior division (grades 10-12). His sponsoring teacher is Nicole Marsella-Jensen. William said that his essay, “Defeating Desertification: Magical Cyanobacteria” was “inspired by his belief that the bacterial-spray method could hold great potential to help many countries combat land degradation in a practical and economical manner.”

Ashwin Reddy, a sophomore at The Wheatley School in Old Westbury, N.Y., took second place in the senior division, with an essay entitled “The Bionic Eye: The Key to Visual Acuity.” Thomas Van Bell is Ashwin’s sponsoring teacher. Shaima Parveen, a sophomore at Livingston High School in Livingston, N.J., took third place with an essay “Lamp Lights the Way for the Future of Energy,” and Eric Weis as her sponsoring teacher.

In the junior division (grades 7-9), Daniel Burgess, an eighth grader at Northwest Junior High School in Coralville, Iowa, took first place with an essay entitled “The Energy of Ideas,” and Kris Thorson as his sponsoring teacher. Daniel said that his research on photovoltaic/thermal hybrid cells was inspired by his passion for “making a difference in my community and on the planet by developing creative solutions to some of our most difficult problems.”

Reeves Balderson, a freshman at Moorestown High School in Moorestown, N.J., took second place with his essay, “Clean Energy, Clean Water!” and Kimberly Martin as his sponsoring teacher. Jack Dudley, a freshman at the Academy of Science in Sterling, Va., took third with his essay entitled “Laser Scanning for Land Mines” and Sundar Thirukkurungudi as his sponsoring teacher.

The emphasis on recognizing teachers began when The DuPont Challenge was created in 1986, in honor of heroic men and women lost in the Challenger space shuttle disaster that year. “I completed my astronaut training in the same year the seven crew members of the Challenger launched from Kennedy Space Center and never came home.  It was a hard reality to accept, but I knew if we persevered we could make the space shuttle and our space program better,” said Cabana. “To this day, NASA continues to push the boundaries of science and exploration in honor of those who came before us.  The DuPont Challenge continues this legacy by encouraging young adults to improve the world through science.”

The DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition is sponsored by DuPont in collaboration with A+ Media, Britannica Digital Learning, NASA, NBC Learn, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and Turnitin.

DuPont (NYSE: DD) has been bringing world-class science and engineering to the global marketplace in the form of innovative products, materials, and services since 1802. The company believes that by collaborating with customers, governments, NGOs, and thought leaders we can help find solutions to such global challenges as providing enough healthy food for people everywhere, decreasing dependence on fossil fuels, and protecting life and the environment. For additional information about DuPont and its commitment to inclusive innovation, please visit

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