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Two Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) middle school students were honored for their inventiveness on February 7th during a ceremony at the White House. Sydney E. Dayyani of Belmont Ridge Middle School and Jack Dudley of Stone Hill Middle School were recognized as part of a four-member team that designed an improved military helmet as part of the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision science competition. (Abby Porter and Jovia Ho of Harper Park Middle School are the other members of the team.)
The quartet designed the HEADS UP! helmet. The helmet is designed to protect soldiers from traumatic brain injuries caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDâ€™s).
Jack, who said he reads The Washington Post every day, saw a story about a soldier who had lost part of his skull because of an IED in Afghanistan. He and the three others were brainstorming about a potential science project. That session ended when Jack showed them the article.
â€œI showed it to them and they were shocked.â€
The design the four came up with is a variation on a standard helmet.
â€œThis helmet uses an advanced design of overlapping polyethylene plates distributing kinetic forces,â€ said Sydney. â€œItâ€™s basically a modification of todayâ€™s ECH or enhanced combat helmet. It prevents TBI, traumatic brain injury.â€
â€œWe researched on a lot of military websites to see what makes up most Army helmets,â€ said Jack.
The standard Army helmet has thicker layers of Polyethylene and is heavier than the one the students designed. Not only is the student helmet lighter, itâ€™s their contention that the overlapping plates better distribute the shock caused by an explosion.
Jack sees applications for their design beyond the battlefield.
â€œA lot of my friends have gotten concussions from sports and we took this design from the battlefield to the playing field to protect children and adults from concussions and brain injuries.â€
Going to the White House was an extraordinary experience, Sydney said. There were bomb-sniffing dogs and metal detectors to pass through when entering the building. Then there was the revelation that, as first-prize winners, theyâ€™d be sitting behind President Obama when he addressed the science fair competitors. After speaking, the president turned and shook hands with Sydney and Jack.
â€œItâ€™s a big thing,â€ said Sydney. â€œWow. I was like in a three-second state of paralysis.â€
In addition to a presidential handshake for Sydney and Jack, all four team members received a $10,000 savings bond.
The four came together through their swim team when Abby and Jovia were still students at Tolbert Elementary and Jack was home-schooled through Virginia Virtual Academy. The four are not allowed to enter the Toshiba/NSTA competition as a team again, but are seeking to complete other scientific projects.
Since its inception in 1992, more than 287,000 students from across the United States and Canada have participated in the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision program. ExploraVision is one of the world’s largest K-12 science competitions and is a cornerstone of Toshibaâ€™s efforts to inspire youth in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).Â