President Barack Obama looks at the Concussion cushion football helmet project from former Desert High School student Maria Hanes during the 2014 White House Science Fair May 27 in Washington, D.C. Hanes currently attends U.C. Santa Cruz. Hanes, 19, dreams of becoming the first female collegiate football coach and she’s already built up some impressive credentials. Maria served as manager and film technician for the Desert Scorpions football team during her first three years of high school at Edwards Air Force Base, aiming to learn as much as possible about the game she loves. One afternoon, she dropped her cell phone, covered with a new rubber case, and noticed that the phone didn’t break. She set out to test whether soft, impact-absorbing materials like the rubber case could be added to helmets to reduce concussion risk. Maria developed her “Concussion Cushion” science project, testing out several inner and outer cushioning materials for her players’ helmets – including gel and memory foam inserts and impact absorbing outer coverings. Maria’s project earned her the Naval Science Award and place at the 2013 California State Science Fair.
This year, 100 students from 30 states were on hand at the fourth White House Science Fair. The students were there to not only impress the president, but also meet the science guy himself, Bill Nye, and Kari Byron, host of “Mythbusters” and “Head Rush.”
The event had a special focus on getting girls involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields. Half the students at the fair were young women. Valerie Jarrett and Tina Chen, who head the White House Office of Women and Girls, hosted a roundtable with 10 girls from the science fair. That roundtable kicked off a new series of events that will look to help bring girls together with STEM leaders from the administration and across the country.