Question Sheet: On the Trail of America’s Next Top Scientists


Before reading:

  1. What do you think happens at a science-themed competition?
  2. Can kids’ science fair projects relate to current world events? If so, how?

During reading:

  1. How did the 2007 DCYSC participants create a fire tornado?
  2. How are kids judged at this competition?
  3. What was the theme at this year’s DCYSC?
  4. What does Judge Jacobs mean when he says, “Just a slight change in

    temperature can have dramatic effects?”

  5. How can a hydraulic press affect the environmental impact of trash?
  6. What is a carbon footprint? And what is the carbon footprint of a


  7. What was unusual about this year’s DCYSC?

After reading:

  1. Based on what you now know about DCYSC, what do you think would be a good

    theme for next year’s competition? Can you think of a challenge or two that

    would fit that theme?

  2. Do you think DCYSC is a typical science event? Explain your answer.
  3. Compared to a cheeseburger, name one type of food that has a smaller carbon

    footprint and one that has a larger footprint? Explain your reasoning.

  4. What precautions did DCYSC organizers take to make sure no one was hurt by

    the fire tornado? Look at images in the article for clues.

  5. Did reading about the DCYSC competition change your feelings or opinions

    about science fairs? Why or why not?

  6. Explain this quote: “For every problem that has been solved today, there is

    an infinite number left for you to solve.” Do you find the advice inspiring? Why

    or why not?


  1. Explain what Rhonda Reis means when she says, “That is like what’s happening

    in southern California right now.” Search the web for information about the

    October 2007 wildfires in southern California. How have the fires affected the

    region? You can read more about the fires at


  2. Which states or countries are most vulnerable to wildfires? Why?


  1. Look through previous Science News for Kids articles about the

    DCYSC competition. (For a list of articles, go to

    ).What are some common themes of the competition each year. What seems to change

    from year to year?

  2. Imagine that you were one of the finalists at this year’s DCYSC. Write a

    diary entry about what you did, what you liked most, and what was most

    challenging about the experience.


During the wildfires that scorched southern California in October 2007, about 1,500 homes were destroyed, more than 500,000 acres of land burned, and 18 active fires burned through the area. On average, how many acres of land did each fire burn? An average of how many homes were destroyed by each fire?