Competition seeks students’ bright ideas

Middle schoolers can use their research skills to study how light affects sleep

reading kid

Scientists are studying the association between light exposure and sleep. Now, a competition lets students submit their own ideas. 


Many of us know that bright light at night shifts our body clocks and make sleep elude us. One source of that night light: the screens of televisions, smartphones and other computers. Teens, especially, spend more time than they should staring at those screens. A new competition aims get the word out about light to middle school students by encouraging them develop their own research project on its effects.

The Bright Schools Competition is now open for registration. The National Sleep Foundation and National Science Teachers Association are sponsoring this new contest. They’re recruiting teams of up to four students in sixth through eighth grades. Each team will work with an adult coach or teacher to come up with a project studying impacts of light on sleep.

Contestants might develop a prototype invention, create an awareness campaign or write up a proposal for a research project. They must submit a four-page proposal, as well as a three minute video describing the work they propose to do. The sponsors are providing educational materials to light the way. These include two free lesson plans to help teachers explain light and circadian rhythm, and how students can measure how much light they encounter throughout the day. The lesson plans should give students enough guidance to launch their own projects.

Registration for the competition opened September 21, and won’t close until January 29, 2016. The contest is open only to United States or Canada citizens or legal residents. Each student must be enrolled in sixth, seventh or eighth grade in a public, private or home-school program.

Each first place winner will take home $5,000. Second and third place groups will receive $2,500 and $1,500 per student, respectively. Teachers will receive prize packages, too. All groups will receive participation certificates. It’s a great opportunity for kids to develop their own bright ideas.

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Power Words

(for more about Power Words, click here)

circadian  Adjective for something that recurs naturally on a roughly 24-hour cycle.

circadian rhythm  Biological functions such as body temperature and sleeping/waking times that operate on a roughly 24-hour cycle.

smartphone  A cell (or mobile) phone that can perform a host of functions, including search for information on the Internet.

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.