You may not want to touch a computer mouse, the gym door handle, a water fountain, or a bottle of hand sanitizer at Rising Sun Middle School.
That's the advice from eighth grade boys Logan Garvin, Brian Li, and Josh Trupkiewicz.
They have the data to back it up.
Not to be outdone, a group of sixth grade girls: Indigo Garvin, Helen Li, and Emily DeJesus also competed. After researching cats and their bacteria, they studied ways to get a cat litter box clean. They sampled bleach, ammonia, soap and water and found that bleach was the best. The teams were coached by Dr. Mary Denver, who is the mother of Trupkiewicz. Denver gathered litter boxes from friends and coworkers for the experiment. She works at Basin Run Animal Hospital.
Both teams worked on the project for months. They met at the school weekly since last fall and submitted their completed projects in February. The eighth grade boys team was second in the state in their age group. The sixth grade girls team was first in the state in their age group. Each of the team members received a savings bond - the boys team members received $500 bonds. The girls team members received $1,000 bonds. "What we made in two years, they (the girls) made in one year," said Trupkiewicz, who also competed last year.
But money can't buy the lessons they learned.
"Never touch the water fountain outside the cafeteria," said Trupkiewicz. "I'm not always the most social person but I learned about team work."
"I learned to swab things and take samples," said Brian Li.
"For my research, I learned cats can carry many diseases from their feces. Cats are dirty and it's really hard to clean up after them," said Helen Li.
The E Cybermission event is one of the several science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) initiatives offered by the U.S. Army. This program is administered by the National Science Teachers Association and is a web-based STEM competition. The competition is free to students and designed to build interest in STEM. Students in grades six through nine are challenged with developing a solution to a real-world problem in their community.