But with college already within their sights, the two young men wanted to do something that would enhance their background. Pimienta approached science advisor Ed Monahan. .
"I wanted to find a project that would challenge myself the best," Pimienta said. "Mr. Monahan came up with the Young Science Achievers Program." .
The program, designed by Bell Labs and AT&T Labs, gives high school students grants to conduct extensive science projects, then asks the students to make a formal presentation using the data they uncovered later in the year. .
Weehawken High School has participated in the program for the last three years, with a group of eight students receiving a grant two years ago and a group of four girls getting the grant last year. .
The program was initiated by a Weehawken High School graduate, Ed Halloway, who coordinates the program now and is one of the judges who designates where the money is allotted. .
"Ed sought me out a few years ago," Monahan said. "He said that it was a good program for the kids of Weehawken to get involved in." .
So Monahan paired Pimienta and Lee and gave them the idea to do a project on artificial food coloring and the effects it has on people's general health. .
"It seemed like an interesting topic," Pimienta said. .
Food coloring Lee has experience in doing science projects. Six years ago, when he attended Roosevelt School, Lee was the winner of the school's Science Fair, doing a project on spyro gyra and the acidity in plants. Lee said that he was always interested in food coloring. .
"My mom always says that it's not good for you, so I wanted to know for sure," Lee said. "I really wanted to investigate whether it's true or not. It can make for a nice project." .
So the two students made a proposal to the Young Science Achievers Program and waited to see if they were selected to receive the grant. .
"I didn't know whether we would get picked," Pimienta said. .
"I'm sure there were a whole bunch of kids from all over New Jersey who applied," Lee said. "I knew they were only taking a select few." .
But the proposal the two young men delivered to the YSAP must have worked, because they were designated to receive the $1,000 grant to purchase materials necessary to acquire enough information about artificial food coloring for their presentation, which will take place in May at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. .
"I was happy that we got selected," Pimienta said. "I know we'll produce and we'll get a lot of important data. It's pretty cool. We're always involved in the school's science department and doing things. Oscar and I have become good friends. I'm excited that we're working together." .
"It's a really big honor," Lee said. "I hope Pedro and I live up to it." .
Monahan said that he was happy for the kids. .
"I'm very proud of them, because they were the ones who pursued this on their own," Monahan said. "It's going to take a lot of extra work on their own. But they sought this out on their own and got the money to do it. I only got involved after they came to me." .
Monahan believes that their involvement in the YSAP will only help them down the road. .
"I think this helps their chances of being accepted by the top colleges," Monahan said. "It's a great thing for them to put on their resumes."
The students just received word of the grant last week. They will begin the research and purchase the necessary equipment later this week.