Students win national award

Two Federal Way girls have scooped the nation with their idea for an electronic newspaper covering Mars.

Erikka Fisk and Megan Sweeney, eighth-graders at Spring Valley Montessori School, won the award for best design in stellar solutions in the national Space Day 2002 Challenge. A committee that included representatives of NASA, the Aerospace Education Foundation and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics judged the duo’s “Martian Monthly” the best among 3,000 entries from students in 23 countries.

The only thing that would have made their top honor more thrilling would have been if Fisk and Sweeney, both 14, could have attended the awards ceremony Thursday at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Two of America’s most famous astronauts, John Glenn and Sally Ride, formally announced the winners in various Challenge categories as part of Space Day, a global observance of the achievements and future of space exploration.

The trip east for its star pupils would have been too expensive, school officials said.

Fisk and Sweeney also missed the live Webcast of the ceremony, but for a good reason. They and other Spring Valley students were invited to the Flight Museum at Boeing Field to meet two visiting astronauts.

Making the day bigger still for Fisk and Sweeney was their guest appearance on the KCPQ channel 13 morning news. They were scheduled to give a mock weather report for Mars, said their science teacher, Gulsevin Kayihan.

Another twosome of Spring Valley students –– eighth-grader Amber Galster and seventh-grader Tina Wahl –– reached the finals (“an honor in itself,” contest officials said) in judging of the proposals for electronic newspaper reporting of Martian life. Their entry was the “Ares Daily.”

Kayihan said her students had been studying astronomy before they entered the Space Day competition. “They were so into it, so excited about space study, that they were very creative with their entries,” she said.

When they submitted their entry, Fisk and Sweeney, who spent only a few days developing it, joked about winning. They were stunned when they learned they actually did

“Oh, definitely,” said Fisk. Though she’d never scored a national award, her environmental-themed drawing was selected earlier this year for a state recycling calendar.

Fisk said she plans to use her interest in science to some day be a doctor in a hospital emergency room.

“Astronomy is interesting, but I really prefer medicine,” she said.

Sweeney, an avid soccer player who also likes riding motorcycles, is a science buff, too.

“It’s very interesting,” she said.

Editor Pat Jenkins can be reached at 925-5565 and

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