Jason Bernardi is an aspiring engineer. Or maybe a DJ. But then again, he might be a race car driver. The dreams of this 11-year-old Spokane boy are endless.
Wednesday afternoon, one of Bernardi’s dreams came true when he accepted the Supernova Award. The Boy Scouts of America’s Nova and Supernova programs focus on encouraging interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
“I feel really proud of myself,” Jason said. “I’m like, I did it.”
In recent years, the Boy Scouts have made an effort to expand their STEM programs, said John Rivera, STEM director of the Boy Scouts Inland Northwest Council. Scouts can earn merit badges in STEM fields, as well as participate in programs like robotics to apply their skills in the real world.
“When they go to school, they realize they did this over the weekend,” Rivera said.
The awards launched within the last year. They’re so new that Jason is the first Scout in the Inland Northwest to receive one.
The Girl Scouts are also growing their STEM offerings, from Lego League robotics competitions to day camps at local universities, said Peggy McDonald, a program coordinator with Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.
“What they get out of them is an exposure to possibilities in STEM careers,” McDonald said.
With help from teachers and his mother, Kalista Bernardi, Jason conducted two experiments to earn the award. In the first, Jason tested how high Coca-Cola and Diet Coca-Cola sprayed when a Mentos candy was put in the bottle. Diet Coke sprayed more, he said.
For the second experiment, Jason worked with his classmates at Moran Prairie Elementary to create polluted terrariums and aquariums.
The results were less conclusive, Jason said.
“All I do know is we’re gonna need some more observations,” he said.
Jason’s interest in science and technology launched when his family attended Step into STEM, a science and math activity day at North Central High School, in November.
From there, Jason found the Supernova program. With no Supernova winners in the area, Kalista Bernardi said they initially struggled to find mentors for Jason. But in the end, that didn’t stop him.
“He was interested in getting it and he was motivated,” said Jason’s father, Chris Bernardi. “We’re really proud.”
Jason put close to 100 hours into his project, his mother said.
Jason stood surrounded by friends and family downtown in front of the statue commemorating Michael P. Anderson, the Spokane astronaut who died when the space shuttle Columbia exploded in 2003. Rivera handed Jason a certificate and a medal.
“Small beginnings can take you just about everywhere,” Rivera said, recalling Anderson’s history as a Boy Scout and a scientist.
Jason took his award, his cheeks flushed as he smiled.
“At least Michael Anderson chased his dream,” he said.