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Drugs & Health Blog

Are You In or Are You Out? What Does it Mean to be Cool?

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Sara Bellum

Last year, 14-year-old Shelby Marie Raye from Manatee High School in Bradenton, Florida was looking through a teen magazine and saw an article that said "How To Be Popular in High School." She wondered what traits made someone appear to be popular or "cool."

Since she had a science class that required a science fair project, she decided to study that question like a scientist. So she surveyed hundreds of students in her school about what it means to be "cool." Her project, titled, What's In and What's Out: High Schoolers' Perceptions of Coolness, determined that in her school, football was considered to be the "coolest" sport for boys while cheerleading and dance were the coolest sports for girls. Over 50% of the students said that grade point average was not related to being cool, and that as teens got older they thought it was less cool to be in honors classes. (What's that about anyway?) She also learned that by the time boys turned 18, they thought it was less cool to drink, smoke, and take other dangerous risks than when they were younger.

Interestingly, more boys thought it was cool to have a girlfriend....than girls, who weren't as convinced it was cool to have a boyfriend. And what traits make boys seem cool? Boys said the coolest traits were to be funny and confident. Yet females thought being friendly and outgoing were the coolest traits.

To see Shelby present her work to the Director of NIH and other scientists, check out the video above. You can also watch a video about Shelby's science project..

BTW, NIDA scientists were so impressed with Shelby's project that they awarded her third place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and Shelby walked away with a prize of $1000—proof that being smart is pretty cool after all!

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Thats really amazing.
I'm glad to finally see somebody in high school who finds something in a magazine and then makes something as simple as a science project; and she walks away with 1000 dollars plus everything else she gained from i said, im glad to finally see somebody like this girl.

Wow! that is very cool and amazing to see a 14 year old high schooler who is againist drugs and achohol abuse! I'm so with you! drugs and achohol are horrable! so many people die each year im surprised theres still people are living on earth with all the seccond hand smoke and crap like this! you are a insprition to me! im so proud of everything you have done to the project! i love the fact of your scinece projects! [Edtr. deleted personal contact info, per g/l]
Thank you


thats great everyone thinks its nerdy to be smart but
u can get 1000 dollars for it.

Anyone who takes part in a high school science fair may compete for NIDA's prize. Addiction science is a field that cuts across biology, chemistry, neuroscience, social science and a bunch of other areas. Think of a question you have about drugs, how people get addicted, what's happening in the brain, or how friends might persuade you to engage in questionable activities or behaviors even though you'd never do it on your own, and come up with a way of testing it. We love to hear your ideas!

In my experience, your post was indeed the case. People who "peaked" in middle school mostly ended up, not so much "unpopular" in High School (and after), but rather just "messed-up". (Pregnancy/Addiction/Arrest/...etc) Although the "trappings" of maturity seem to occur at an accelerated rate with every passing generation, the human brain is not maturing at nearly so fast a rate.