Delaware’s students are shaping our future

Dear Friends,

This week in my Washington D.C. office I was visited by two groups of Delaware students who represent the great spirit of innovation and progressive thinking that will help Delaware and America compete and win for years to come.

On Tuesday, I was visited by Mikayla Ockels, a Junior at Sussex Central High School in Georgetown who was joined by her parents, Cindy and Richard. Mikayla had been invited to our nation’s capital by President Obama to participate in the 6th annual White House Science Fair. Each year, the President invites a handful of the brightest young students from across the country to join him at the White House and present their accomplishments in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) competitions from the previous year.

Last year, Mikayla won the Practical Impact Award at the U.S. National BioGENEius Challenge for her innovative research into something very important for Delaware and our economy – chickens! Mikayla had conducted research to help find the most efficient way to satisfy our country’s growing demand for pasteurized eggs. Looking at a number of egg laying hen breeds, Mikayla found which breed of hen had the most efficient “Feed to Egg Conversion Rate” (FECR), or total feed needed to produce an egg. Utilizing Mikayla’s research, Delaware’s chicken and egg farmers can save money while increasing their output of eggs, helping to continue the growth of one of Delaware’s most important agricultural industries.

That same day, I also met with a group of “Raiders” from Concord High School in north Wilmington. This group of bright young men and women were in D.C. as a part of the Source America Design Challenge, a nationwide engineering competition that partners students with organizations to create a device or system to help employees with disabilities overcome workplace barriers.

The students worked alongside Christiana Hospital in Newark to help a few of their disabled employees. Justin Hall, a Christiana Hospital employee joined the students on their trip. At Christiana hospital, Justin is in charge of sorting unused medicine to be used for redistribution. He explained to me that the labels can often be small and difficult for him to read. The team from Concord High teamed up with Justin and Christiana Hospital to help design the Scan ‘n Sort, a barcode scanning device to help categorize and alphabetically sort the recycled medicine. Now, Justin simply scans the barcodes on the bottles and the type of medicine comes up on a computer screen. With the help of these students, Justin’s efficiency has increased exponentially and he no longer has to strain his eyes to read the small script on the bottles.

The next day, I was excited to learn that the Concord High team, “Concord Alpha Red One,” had taken First Place in the Source America Design Challenge and will be bringing a trophy back home to Delaware. Way to go Raiders!

Young Delawareans like Mikayla and the team from Concord High School represent the creative, inventive spirit that has helped make America the world leader in innovation. It is our job in Congress to continue giving them the tools they need to continue to succeed. That means investing in their education now and ensuring that every child has the opportunity and resources to reach their full potential. Their contributions will help shape a better future for Delaware and our country—their success is our success. With their talents and drive, I’m confident that there are even brighter days ahead!