A picture of the medal I was awarded by NASA.
OK, I admit it. I was one of hundreds of high school students who participated in NASA's "put an experiment aboard the Space Shuttle" contest. Each of us got a cheap plastic medal, a certificate, a copy of the group photo and an all-expenses-paid trip to a regional NASA conference for ourselves and our science teacher. Most of us in the West went to NASA Ames Research Center (in Mountain View, California).
Since NASA Ames Research Center is about fifteen miles from the high school I attended, the free hotel room and the "mileage expenses" seemed kind of silly, but the people there from North Dakota seemed to appreciate it. It was a lot warmer in California.
My experiment came right out of a Carl Sagan book I had read: it was basically to take some aluminium and lead and try to heat them up and make alloy out of them. In fact, the whole thing was pretty silly. I was taking biology at the time, and I didn't like biology, so when I was given a choice -- to do some regular biology assignment or to do a Shuttle contest entry on any area of science -- well, I decided a shuttle contest entry on metallurgy was a lot less boring. It was, as it turned out.
So I went to Ames, got advice on redoing the project for the Next Level of Competition, resubmitted it, and was told I didn't make the next cut. Oh well. I got an A in biology that semester. And I get to tell people I was awarded a medal by NASA.