Students from Volunteer and Dobyns-Bennett high schools also finished in the top five Tuesday, while 10 students from those schools and Sullivan Central received honorable mentions.
Kristin received a $1,000 cash prize and will speak at Eastman Chemical Co.’s Black History month community event Feb. 23, which will feature University of Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs.
Kristin’s oratory recounted how Thomas’ life work tied directly into science, technology and engineering. Despite facing racism and sexism in school, Thomas went to work for NASA in computer technology and worked on SPAN, which stands for Space Physics Analysis Network.
Without Thomas, Kristin said the Internet might not have been invented and that her work inspired what become GPS or Global Positioning System. Thomas also invented an illusion machine, which allowed the invention of 3-D or three-dimensional viewing.
Kristin said she entered the contest at the urging of her English teacher. She also said she likely will use the money toward college and is considering local schools, including East Tennessee State University, as well as colleges in her native Michigan and New York. She is involved with forensics at Science Hill and said she may pursue a career as an actor or lawyer.
Second place and $500 went to Kendall Miller of D-B with an essay on Maya Angelou, a poet, playwright, film director and actor who didn’t speak for years in her youth after being raped at age 8 by her mother’s boyfriend but became a national civil rights figure and wrote multiple autobiographies.
Volunteer’s Devon Gill’s essay on Lonnie Johnson was good for third place and $300. Johnson is a pioneering nuclear engineer with 80 patents and 20 working patents who worked on the NASA Galileo program, founded a scientific institute and has invented a solar energy converter with no moving parts and a lithium air battery that could last 25 times longer in electric vehicles than current technology. He also invented the Super Soaker water gun.
Kyra Manis of Volunteer was fourth and won $250 with an essay on Daniel H. Williams III. Kyra drew a personal connection with Williams, a pioneering surgeon who performed what amounted to the first open-heart surgery in the 1890s. Kyra has leaky heart valves that one day will have to be repaired in open-heart surgery. “Because Daniel H. Williams III lived, so do I,” Kyra said.
Brock MIller of D-B was fifth and won $250 with an essay on Lewis Latimer, who was the son of slaves and fought in the Union Navy during the Civil War. Latimer helped design a cheaper, more efficient light bulb with Thomas Edison and helped Alexander Graham Bell get phone and air conditioning patents.
The other schools with 10 honorable mentions and their subject matter were:
D-B: Infiniti Bristol on Benjamin Banneker, Alexandra Byers on Vivien Thomas and Jesse Parks on Viven Thomas.
Central: Lauren Poland on Dorothy Brown and Amanda Robinette on Dr. Patricia Bath.
Volunteer: Riley Martin on Dr. Patricia Bath, Megan Painter on Jan Matzeliger, Caden Hickman on Dr. Samuel Kountz, Katie Chrisian on Valerie Thomas and Kelsey Browning on Charles Drew.
This year’s contest drew 90 entries, which were pared down to 24, then 15 and then the five finalists. The three judges were Ruth Livingston, associate professor of speech at Northeast State Community College; Rachel Owns of the Goah Diversity Scholars Program at Milligan College; and Kapunza Dapilah, advanced systems analyst from Eastman. Preliminary judging came from 30 volunteers at Eastman.
“It’s incredible in what good hands our future is going to be,” said David Golden, senior vice president, chief legal officer and corporate secretary for Eastman. As the world grows from about 7 billion humans now to 9-10 billion in 2050 and computers are projected to need more power than the Earth can provide by 2040, he said innovators and inventors will be crucial for humans to survive and thrive. “Each generation has predicted such gloom and doom but been proven wrong. The things that are going to save our planet is that innovation,” Golden said.
He also said that civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the failure of a civil rights march in Albany, Ga., in which 1,000 were arrested, to learn lessons to make future marches successful. Golden graduated from the racially integrated high school there in 1983 and pointed out the community has been united early this year after two tornadoes hit.