(WUSA9) -- Getting middle school kids excited about science was the goal, so the National Science Foundation took their mission to the where teens like to hang out -- the mall!
Dozens of hands on experimentswere set up at the Dulles Town Center mall to show students this isn't just school work; what they are learning solves problems in the real world. For the student we met, it won him some cash, too!
How can science solve a problem in their neighbrohood? The Christopher Columbus Foundation put that challenge out to middle schoolers across the country.
Ninth grader Lang Schaffner said, "It kind of puts awareness out there for kids to look for community problems and try to solve them."
For Schaffner, the problem is kids getting seriously burned on playground slides that sit in direct sun all day. Some models can top 160 degrees. His solution is a stop light indicator he built himself.
He explained, "It uses the sun's energy to convert it into electricity that powers the 12 volt batteries."
Infrared sensors to read the temperature and send signals to the light.
"When the temperature hits 119 degrees on the slide it will go to orange, when it goes to 130 degrees and above it goes to red," shared Schaffner.
Schaffner won a cash prize from the Christopher Columbus Foundation. It's an independent federal agency that runs two contests a year. Any middle schooler from around the country can enter.
Judi Shellenberger, Executive Director Christopher Foundation, said, "We try to bring the real world to them this is how you can make your mark in the work I'm a big believer in have a dream and you can make it happen."
That dream is to have one on every playground to warn kids before they get burned. Schaffner thinks making it more compact will make it more marketable.