Congratulations to Our 2015 Flame Challenge Winners!

What is sleep? It’s like a superpower, a TV with static, a brain-cleaning system, a study hall. Those were just some of the metaphors used by the winners of this year’s Flame Challenge.

The winners, Brandon Aldinger of Renfrew, PA, and Eric C. Galicia of Des Plaines, IL, were honored at a World Science Festival event hosted by Alan Alda in New York City on May 31. Each received a $1,000 prize, a trophy and applause from hundreds of children in the audience.

This year’s Flame Challenge asked scientists to answer the question “what is sleep?” in a way that would interest and enlighten 11-year-olds, and more than 20,000 schoolchildren from around the world judged the entries.

Aldinger, a materials scientist with a PhD in physical chemistry from Cornell University, won for the top-ranked written answer. Galicia, a candidate for a master’s degree in health physics at the Illinois Institute of Technology, won for the top-ranked video explanation.

Alan Alda presented the 2015 Flame Challenge awards to chemist Brandon Aldinger, left, who won for his written entry, and to health physicist Eric Galicia, right, who won for his video submission. Photo courtesy of the World Science Festival (May 31, 2015).

Check out the winning entries, read about the winners and see the other finalists here.

“Scientists make use of a rich imagination when they do science,” Alan Alda said. “To see them use that same rich imagination when they explain science is thrilling.”

Scientists from around the country explored the mysteries of sleep at the World Science Festival’s “What is Sleep?” event. Afterwards, Eric Galicia and Brandon Aldinger received their 2015 Flame Challenge awards. Photo by Jimin Kim (May 31, 2015).

Now, kids can start submitting questions they’d like scientists to answer in next year’s Flame Challenge and teachers can register their classes to be judges in next year’s contest. (Even if your class participated this year, you need to re-register).

The annual contest is run by Stony Brook University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, and is sponsored by the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Diane Grob Schmidt, president of the ACS, far right, met with Alan Alda and Flame Challenge winners Brandon Aldinger and Eric Galicia at the World Science Festival. Photo by Jimin Kim (May 31, 2015).

“What is sleep” is a complex question, said ACS President Diane Grob Schmidt. “So, to be able to explain sleep in a way that is simple, yet detailed enough to satisfy the children judging this year’s contest is not just a challenge, it is an extraordinary achievement. I congratulate this year’s winners and I’m proud that the American Chemical Society is and will continue to be a sponsor of the Flame Challenge.”

Read the full announcement of the 2015 Flame Challenge winners here.