TOYchallenge is an exciting new competition designed to spark the interest of children in grades 5 through 8 in the field of engineering, and in engineering careers. The brainchild of Dr. Sally Ride, America’s first woman astronaut, TOYchallenge is administered by her award-winning not-for-profit educational organization, Sally Ride Science. Here’s how it works.

Each year, from cost to coast, teams of from three to six students, each with an adult advisor, come together to design and build… a toy. Not a toy that a glitzy TV commercial tells them they want, but a unique toy that each team comes up with on its own. In so doing, the students discover that engineering is a dynamic, challenging, creative, collaborative, and interactive process – one that builds confidence, rewards teamwork, and enhances communications skills.

And, what’s more – it’s fun!

Teams are evaluated at several points in the process, and receive helpful expert advice as they refine their concepts and build their entries. After submitting a written description and drawing for preliminary adjudication, the top 100+ teams travel to the Nationals, where panels of distinguished judges review their working prototypes, and award prizes in various categories. With each passing year, the sophistication of the winning entries grows more and more amazing.

At a time when maintaining a position of leadership in the sciences is a matter of vital national importance, TOYchallenge is reaching out to inspire America’s scientists and engineers of tomorrow. It is putting a new face on engineering for a new generation, by debunking the old stereotype of the eccentric inventor, and by contest rules that actively promote the participation of females and minorities, who have been chronically under-represented in the field. These efforts will draw on vast reserves of previously untapped intellectual potential, and promise to unleash a flood of creative energy such as the engineering profession has never seen.

The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation is proud to be a sponsor of TOYchallenge 2006, and to aid it in its mission of expanding the career horizons of America’s youth. Since its inception four years ago, TOYchallenge has provided dramatic proof that effective education doesn’t come only in textbooks or traditional classroom settings. For whatever their apparent differences, the most effective teaching methods share one essential characteristic: they engage and capture a child’s imagination. And – paradoxical as it sounds – it’s nonetheless true that at the very moment you capture a child’s imagination, you’ve also set it free to soar as high as it can.

And soaring high is something that Sally Ride knows all about.