The Midnight Sun Team national finalists in light & sleep STEM Competition

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Miska Alexia, Luke Stepp, Gabe Boyles, Aletta Demrovski along with coach/teacher, Deborah Fancher, of Raven Homeschool, which is part of the Yukon Koyukuk School District have been named national finalists in the 2nd annual Bright Schools Competition™.

The competition is a collaborative effort of the National Sleep Foundation and the National Science Teachers Association that encourages students in grades 6-8 to explore the correlation between light and sleep and how it influences student health and performance. The Midnight Sun Team is one of 50 national finalist teams, chosen among 150 teams, made up of nearly 500 students from 53 schools.

In early May, first-, second- and third-place national winning teams will be announced. The complete list of the national finalists can be found at

The Midnight Sun Team’s winning project, entitled “M.E.L,” is a home-based melatonin meter and app designed to test and monitor melatonin levels using saliva. It will help inform the user when to put electronic devices away and go to bed regardless of how light or dark it is outside. The app records baseline data and then measures hourly levels of melatonin, which benefits the user and the health care provider. Whether students live in Alaska dealing with the long days in the summer and the long nights in the winter, or live anywhere in the United States dealing with time change due to daylight savings or simply traveling, anyone could benefit from this device and app.

“The National Sleep Foundation would like to congratulate the finalists on their innovative projects. The Bright Schools Competition™ has shined a light on the importance of sleep and overall health, and we’re encouraged to see so many students interested in how light directly affects their sleep and academic performance” said David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation.

“The Bright Schools Competition is a celebration of the talent and ingenuity of our youth, providing students with a unique opportunity to think critically while exploring the connection between light and sleep,” said NSTA Executive Director Dr. David Evans. “Congratulations to all of the national finalists for their hard work, enthusiasm, and imaginative ideas.”

Under the mentorship of an adult coach/teacher, teams of two to four students identify, investigate, and research an issue related to light and sleep as it pertains to their community and/or young adolescents. Using scientific inquiry or engineering design concepts teams develop a prototype, create an awareness campaign, or write a research proposal for the competition. Each team then submits a written report detailing their project along with a three-minute video showcasing their investigation. Projects are evaluated on the basis of several criteria, including scientific accuracy, innovativeness, and potential impact.

All students who enter the competition will receive a certificate of participation. Students on the first-place national winning team will each receive a cash prize of $5,000; second place students will receive $2,500; and third-place students will receive $1,500. The coach/teacher of the first place team will also receive a prize package, including Vernier Middle School Probeware, an all-expense paid trip to an NSTA conference, and membership to NSTA. The second-place coach/teacher will receive an all-expense paid trip to an NSTA conference and membership to NSTA, and the third-place coach/teacher will receive membership to NSTA and a $500 gift certificate to use in the NSTA Science Store.

More information about the competition is available at