Department of health launches science contest for high school students

For immediate release: February 18, 2022 (22-027)
Contact: DOH Communications 

OLYMPIA -- The Washington State Department of Health’s (DOH) Washington Tracking Network (WTN) is launching the inaugural Washington Tracking Network Youth Science Contest. The WTN Youth Science Contest provides an opportunity for high school students across Washington to develop their science and communication skills while working with health and environmental data from their own communities.

Participants can choose from three tracks: 

  • Health Science – students will perform an analysis with WTN data to reveal correlations, impacts, and/or disparities
  • Community Engagement – students will use WTN tools and data to address health and equity concerns. They will develop either a public policy proposal or work with a local organization to create or improve a project or program.
  • Science Communication – students will identify an issue that is important to them and develop a message to increase awareness or drive action related to the issue

Each track requires students to use WTN data and examine how their project addresses equity issues within their communities. 

Jennifer Sabel, WTN manager, said, “Students participating in this contest will gain knowledge about the health of their communities, how to work with data, and how to use that data to affect positive change.” 

The contest is designed to have a broader appeal than traditional science competitions by bringing in the Community Engagement and Science Communication tracks. 

“These tracks are the intersection of data and real-world impact,” said Sabel. “Science affects every aspect of our lives, and this is a chance for students to use knowledge to improve their communities. I am really looking forward to seeing the creative applications the students come up with.”

In developing the contest, DOH consulted with an advisory committee comprised of high school students. 

“The students offered important insight into what would be interesting and motivating to their peers, and they helped shape the contest,” said Lize Williams, the DOH content strategist who led the contest creation. “Co-creation is one way we enact equity, by centering the voices of those impacted by a program in that program’s design.”

Student advisory committee member Iris Pang said she had never considered the time, effort, and planning that is involved in developing a science competition. She said she appreciated “being able to speak with other students who are excited for the impact the student projects could have on their communities.”  

Registration is open from February 17 to March 15 and the official contest period is from March 1 through April 30. Winners will be announced in early June.

WTN is a DOH program that makes public health data more accessible. The mission of WTN is to provide health and environmental data and tools, develop partnerships, and inform data-driven policy and programmatic decisions, with the goal of improving health and health equity in Washington.

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