Past Winners of the Lexus Eco Challenge

Congratulations to the winners of the 2017—2018 Final Challenge!


MIDDLE SCHOOL GRAND PRIZE

 
Plastic Elastic 3.0, New Jersey
Team:
Sharon, Albania, Gabriella, Camila, Ariana, Karys
Guided by teacher advisors Malissa Yabut and Robert O’Donnell, Plastic Elastic 3.0 explored and confronted the dangers of how microfibers work their way into our oceans—and eventually into our food—in this year’s Land & Water Challenge. Microfibers are the small synthetic fibers shed from fabric in each laundry cycle, which can damage marine ecosystems and, in so doing, can work their way into our food supply. Plastic Elastic 3.0 created a prototype filter to keep the microfibers from traveling into bodies of water in the contest’s first challenge. In the Final Challenge, the team conducted repeated tests on their filter in the hope of getting it installed at local laundromats. But they didn’t stop at microfibers: The students experimented with their filter to see if it could catch glitter, a microplastic that also presents an environmental threat, from cosmetics and crafts. They expanded their outreach about the threat to our oceans to include glitter, securing donations of glitter from the school community for experiments. Additionally, the students connected with a local university’s scientist about their efforts, presented to local organizations, and made and distributed jewelry from upcycled plastic bags.

HIGH SCHOOL GRAND PRIZE

 
Enerjagers, Ohio
Team:
Alicia, Esther, Angelia, Tatyjana, Jadalise, Stephanie, Joslyn
In this year’s Air & Climate Challenge, Enerjagers and teacher advisor Kristen Schuler focused on reusing materials instead of utilizing the energy that goes toward recycling or tossing them into the trash, which would subsequently find them in a landfill. The students produced candles from old glassware, crayons, beeswax, and more, and got the word out about their actions. For the Final Challenge, the team continued focusing efforts on reducing dependence on fossil fuels and reusing and recycling materials to reduce greenhouse gases. They maintained a partnership with representatives of the local community garden and made and distributed more than 600 candles while preventing 93 pounds of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere in the process. Enerjagers is working with its school on greener paper use—having replaced 105 cases of paper with a recycled alternative—and presented an overview of their project to more than 700 people at a school auction. The team also examined annual plastic bag use in the United States and is working with its city council to raise awareness about pending bag-fee legislation. A blog post about the project was featured on a national news and media website. They’re looking forward to helming a booth at a big forthcoming festival, where they’ll share information about the environmental harm presented by single-use plastic and paper bags and will distribute their homemade candles.

MIDDLE SCHOOL FIRST PLACE PRIZE

 
WMS Tree Titans, California
Team:
Jessica, Janelle, Kendra, Yuko, Tannya, Emmanuel, Cyana
In this year’s Final Challenge, WMS Tree Titans and teacher advisor Susan Pritchard continued their work to replant trees in the community that were destroyed due to drought, invasive species, and other issues. The students estimate that their efforts—which include the development of a soil moisture sensor to help determine irrigation needs; fund-raising; and extensive marketing via presentations to city government, community leaders, and more—will yield the planting of 160 trees this year at schools, parks, and their local amphitheater. The team is sharing their ideas with contacts in Australia and Finland.

 
Bottle Buddies, New York
Team:
Nichole, Samantha, Trinity, Dominick, Elizabeth, Mishka
Each year in the United States, plastic bag production calls for approximately 12 million barrels of oil. With carbon emissions and the bags’ toxic, non-biodegradable material in mind, Bottle Buddies and teacher advisor Julie Feltman shifted from their plastic bottle–focused efforts in this year’s Air & Climate Challenge to spreading the word about plastic bag use. The students contacted local legislators about imposing a plastic bag usage fee, gave presentations, created a hip-hop song and video to get the word out, raised money for Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief, and more.


 
Styro-Terminators, New Jersey
Team:
Giovanna, Kayla, Michaela, Sajoud, Juver, Briana, Layla, Jennifer
Led by teacher advisors Malissa Yabut and Robert O’Donnell, Styro-Terminators is well aware of the environmental hazards of Styrofoam, the toxic and nonrecyclable material that was the focus of the team’s Land & Water project. The students pressed forward on this topic in the Final Challenge. They led a community “trash walk” to emphasize Styrofoam’s eco-dangers; created a Styro-digester, which uses beetle larvae to recycle Styrofoam; secured bins for their school to collect Styrofoam for upcycling or feeding to their beetle larvae; and presented to the Board of Education about eliminating Styrofoam trays from their lunchroom (as well as their district’s and county’s lunchrooms).

 
The Hydro Heroes, Kentucky
Team:
Hannah, Lola, Riley, Luke, Ally, Jackson, Karsten
While focusing on getting people to use reusable water bottles made for a worthwhile Land & Water Challenge project, the Hydro Heroes and teacher advisor Ashlie Arkwright used the Final Challenge to encourage their community to take care of what goes into those bottles—water. They focused on educating others about keeping water sources clean. The team organized a cleanup at a nearby creek that yielded nine bags of nonrecyclable trash and nearly 23 pounds of recyclable cans and bottles from the water source. They partnered with several big corporations and spoke to legislators at their state capitol building about putting a statewide bottle-deposit system in place.

HIGH SCHOOL FIRST PLACE PRIZE

 
Powerfuels, New York
Team:
Anshul, Isabella, Min, Nitish, Saipranati, Saipranavi
The merits of waste-based biodiesel was a good focus for Powerfuels’s entry in the Air & Climate Challenge this year, and it provided a smart launchpad for what would come next: a broad education campaign on biofuels—renewable liquid or gaseous fuels, such as biodiesel, that are composed of organic matter. Led by teacher advisors Michael Giallorenzo and Serena McCalla, the students forged partnerships with international organizations, collected trash in their community and shipped it to a facility to convert it into fuel (they aim to do this for the school district), produced a short film, hosted an event in New York City about their cause, and more.

 
3-D Pneumatic Aerator Creators, Texas
Team:
Hunter, Kimmy, Austin, Isabel, Olivia, Ginger
Guided by teacher advisor David McLoda, 3-D Pneumatic Aerator Creators shifted from the algae pollution-fighting aerators they built for this year’s Land & Water Challenge to improving access to safe drinking water in the South Asian country of Nepal. Contaminants such as microorganisms and arsenic in Nepal’s drinking water are of considerable concern and are linked to a number of negative health effects. Renamed Fighters for Filtration in the Final Challenge, the team is working with civil engineers to finalize its own filtration systems and partnered with the former ambassador to Nepal and others to get mini-filter systems and educational materials to the region for safe drinking water practices.

 
Navajo Prep Flying Eagles, New Mexico
Team:
Sky, Miauaxochitl, Keona, Xander, Kaylin
Using data that they gathered in this year’s Air & Climate Challenge—in which they looked for what might be causing a high concentration of methane gas in an area near their hometown—the Navajo Prep Flying Eagles focused on the needs of local communities that are dealing with high poverty. Led by teacher advisor Yolanda Flores, the students designed and built a prototype for a solar- and thermal-powered heating and cooling system that could be used in homes in an off-the-grid rural area (for which they foresee a global application). They were featured in their local newspaper and presented their project to the school and community. As a result of their meetings, representatives of each Agency of the Navajo Nation shared the students’ work with their respective contingencies. While these heating and cooling systems are cost-effective, there’s an environmental bonus: They also contribute to reducing a family’s reliance on fossil fuels.

 
Operation Sustain, Washington
Team:
Rayan, Anne, Parth, Isaac, Fred, Suchi
Gamer-activists Operation Sustain designed a climate education computer game for this year’s Air & Climate Challenge as well as a supplementary curriculum. Teacher advisors Mike Town and Melissa Wrenchey and their team stayed the course by launching another environmental science–focused branch of their existing game over the course of the Final Challenge. The students partnered with a local university for help with improving concepts and graphics, and produced and implemented a new academic standards-based environmental science curriculum for elementary classrooms and more.

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2017–2018 Air & Climate Challenge! 

HIGH SCHOOL

 
Navajo Prep Flying Eagles, New Mexico
Team
: Sky, Miauaxochitl, Lila, Keona, Xander, Kaylin
Navajo Prep Flying Eagles and teacher advisor Yolanda Flores set out to investigate what is an abnormally high concentration of methane gas in their region. The reasons for this aren't clear, and the students hoped to find out what they could. After acquiring high tech equipment such as methane sensors and carefully analyzing data pertaining to methane emissions in their community and elsewhere, they traced the source to man-made activity. They shared their findings as well as some information on the community’s contributions to climate change via social media, local news outlets, and more.

 
Operation Sustain, Washington
Team:
Rayan, Anne, Parth, Isaac, Fred, Suchi
Operation Sustain saw an opportunity to spread awareness about climate change when they examined elementary school students’ affinity for and inundation with technology. Led by teacher advisors Mike Town and Melissa Wrenchey, the students developed an interactive educational computer game and corresponding curriculum rooted in teaching the fundamentals of climate change. Operation Sustain adhered to academic science standards to explain climate change to younger students, and per their assessment quizzes, saw a 206% increase in the students’ understanding of the subject after administering their game.

 
Team E-Motion, South Carolina
Team:
Jon, Andrew, Jackson, Charlie, Bryce, Tyler
What if kids could generate electricity while exercising? Team E-Motion and teacher advisor Susan LaFlam didn’t think this was a crazy idea. With the goal of spreading awareness about the need for renewable energy, the team got to work on designing toys that convert kinetic energy into electricity—for example, sneakers that store energy from your walk and converts it into electricity to charge your phone. The team’s toys are a big hit, and they’ve contacted manufacturers to gauge their interest in developing similar products.

 
Beyond the Footprint, Texas
Team:
Eric, Shivam, Zain, Samyam, Joey, Tanay
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, almost all the increase in greenhouse gases in the last 150 years is from human activities. Beyond the Footprint looked at the emissions produced by the U.S. meat industry and rolled out a “Meatless Monday” at school to help reduce carbon emissions and draw attention to the subject. Guided by teacher advisor Rebekah Cate, the team collaborated with the school district and a producer of plant-based meat substitutes to serve meatless burgers, sausages, and more in the school cafeteria. They surveyed students about the meals, produced a short film about their project, and contributed a report on meat alternatives to the campus’s TV news broadcast.

 
Powerfuels, New York
Team:
Isabella, Min, Nitish, Anjika, Anshul, Saipranati, Saipranavi
The exhaust from cars and trucks adds significantly to total carbon dioxide emissions in the United States (calculated at 32% in 2018) and is a big contributor to smog. Powerfuels and teacher advisors Michael Giallorenzo and Serena McCalla set their sights on the benefits of biodiesel, a biodegradable fuel produced from waste oil. Engines run cleanly on biodiesel, it’s less combustible and less harmful to the environment than petroleum diesel, and using it reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Powerfuels partnered with local labs and businesses; secured used cooking grease from local restaurants to convert to biodiesel; launched a petition to have school buses running on the alternative; presented their ideas and research to classrooms and community members; and lots more.

 
The Earth Worms, New York
Team:
Sarah, Selena, Keertti, Sophia, Jennifer, Razeen
Composting naturally breaks down paper and food waste, which are otherwise significant contributors to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The Earth Worms explored the concept of composting, but looked to have worms do the work. Led by teacher advisors Michael Giallorenzo and Serena McCalla, the team purchased 5,000 red wiggler worms for vermicomposting, by which worms in bins eat and break down waste. The students have distributed the worms and bins to their community, presented to more than 400 people about vermicomposting, have been in touch with companies in China about the practice, and got more than 40 businesses to pledge that they’ll compost, too.

 
Enerjagers, Ohio
Team:
Alicia, Esther, Angelia, Tatyjana, Jadalise, Stephanie, Joslyn
Spreading awareness about reusing materials—instead of throwing them away or spending energy to recycle them—was part of Enerjagers’ efforts to examine their reliance on fossil fuels. Teacher advisor Kristen Schuler and her team decided on producing candles from materials that were otherwise on their way to landfills. Instead of using components that contribute to our fossil fuel dependence, the students reused discarded glassware, crayons, beeswax, and other eco-friendly ingredients. Enerjagers created an instructional video about their candles, partnered with local organizations, shared their ideas with more than 500 people at a summit, and removed nearly 200 pieces of trash from a local beach to use in decorating their candle jars.

 
Ladue Horton Watkins Superworms, Missouri
Team:
Abby, Alice, Antonio, Carolyn, Christopher, Cindy, Eleanor, Faith, Megan
Ladue Horton Watkins worked to counter Styrofoam’s danger to the environment: Its production causes large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and is damaging to the ozone layer; it isn’t recyclable; it can harm us and other animals when ingested; and more. First, teacher advisors Monica Bowman and Katie Kane and their team used flyers, posters, and made T-shirts to get the word out in their community about Styrofoam. They reached out to local researchers and specialists for help with their raising and analysis of mealworms and “superworms,” which are the larvae of darkling beetles, to consume Styrofoam. The team is depositing the worms’ waste in their school garden to fertilize its soil for the growth of nonedible plants.

MIDDLE SCHOOL

 
WMS Wind Wolves, California
Team:
Yuko, Emmanuel, Cyana, Tannya, Kendra, Janelle, Jessica
While renewable energy use gains steam in the U.S., carbon emissions from the dependency on fossil fuels still account for the bulk of greenhouse gases. Teacher advisor Susan Pritchard and WMS Wind Wolves researched how to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. They partnered with local energy experts and city officials, are promoting the benefits of solar energy and wind energy to their classmates, are working to have wind turbines installed at school, are having disposable drinking containers replaced on campus, and more.

 
Air Heroes, Utah
Team:
Afton, Mary, Sydney, Sadie, Ruby, Madison
When the Environmental Protection Agency identified their city as having the nation’s worst air quality, teacher advisors Mark Gisseman and JoAnne Brown and Air Heroes knew that they needed to take aim at the issue. They developed a week’s worth of simple contributions for members of their community to make that would help reduce air pollution. The Air Heroes promoted the ideas on social media and incentivized students to take reusable lunch boxes to school, to recycle, to minimize greenhouse gas emissions by conserving electricity, and more.

 
The Cricketeers, Texas
Team:
Cole, Brennan, Garrett, Gary, Cayden
The Cricketeers learned about the impact our food choices can have on greenhouse gas emissions and, relatedly, on climate change. Led by teacher advisor Laura Wilbanks, the students surveyed their community on alternative eco-friendly food choices, which include protein-rich termites, crickets, and lentils. The team partnered with entomologists and a large nonprofit to learn about the food it sends to starving people, talked to professors and local experts about protein, and conducted experiments to research which insects could be eaten for nutritional value. They developed a protein-rich cricket-based powder and baked cookies with it for the community, and did a lot more to spread awareness of their idea.

 
CO2 Crew, Florida
Team:
Lucas, Emily, Caroline, Shayne, Lila, Martin
Teacher advisor Hope Kennedy and CO2 Crew took on ocean acidification—a change in the chemistry of seawater caused by oceans’ removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. While aquatic plant life can benefit from this change, the effect on various shellfish and coral is detrimental. CO2 Crew conducted lots of research and planted seaweed in a school lab to study which plants change acidity in seawater. The students created presentations to share their findings on campus and online.

 
Pollution Solution, New Jersey
Team:
Kaitlyn, Abigail, April, Matthew, Gunner, Brian, Katie, Michaela, Julia, Rebecca
Reducing air pollution was top-of-mind for Pollution Solution. Teacher advisor Tara Melchior and her team focused on the constant charging of personal electronic devices and the associated carbon emissions. For a project they called “Pollution Solution Gardens,” the students made space in classrooms and offices for high oxygen-producing plants to counteract fossil fuel pollution. They created information guides about the plants, lesson plans about pollution, and more.

 
Bottle Buddies, New York
Team:
Nichole, Samantha, Trinity, Dominick, Elizabeth, Mishka
While billions of pounds of plastic bottles are thrown away each year, only a modest fraction of those bottles get recycled. Guided by teacher advisor Julie Feltman, the aptly named Bottle Buddies focused on recycling to reduce greenhouse gases. The team aimed to inform the student body at their school about how important recycling is and encouraged their peers to recycle their water bottles on campus. They collected and recycled over 1,000 bottles, are planting trees in plastic bottles to sell and raise funds for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico, and more.
 
 
Capital Composting, Kentucky
Team:
Amir, Clint, Kaja, Lilia, Mykell, Cassie
Capital Composting are pretty excited about composting, and they were even able to get younger students in their school community excited about it, too. And here’s why: When food scraps are broken down in landfills, methane is emitted, which (like carbon) ultimately traps heat and contributes to global warming. Composting is an eco-friendly alternative, and teacher advisor Audrey Bebensee and her team worked to get that message out. The students designed and built mobile compost bins, talked to scientists about composting and partnered with businesses to collect food scraps, created compost bins for families in the community, and are presenting to elementary school classrooms about the process.

 
WMS Eco-Menders, Michigan
Team:
Mallory, Anéla, Griffin, Faith, Rachel, Liam, Makayla
Instead of repairing things when they break, we often toss them in the trash and buy new things—the production of those new products means more carbon emissions. WMS Eco-Menders and teacher advisor Susan Tate wanted to encourage people to think about how often they’re disposing of things that could be fixed and used again instead of going to landfills. The students held a big event in their community to collect broken items and repair them. They partnered with Repair Café, an organization that has supported fixing instead of nixing globally since 2009, gathered volunteers to help them, and marketed their “fix-it” clinic to everyone in town. It was so successful that they’re hosting another event soon and have reserved space at the library to do it on a quarterly basis.

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2017–2018 Land & Water Challenge! 

MIDDLE SCHOOL

 
Plastic Elastic 3.0, New Jersey
Team:
Sharon, Albania, Gabriella, Camila, Ariana, Karys
Every time we do a load of laundry, plastic microfibers from our clothes can find their way into our drains and water systems. These microfibers are pollutants that can damage aquatic life, working their way up the food chain. Led by teacher advisors Malissa Yabut and Robert O’Donnell, Plastic Elastic 3.0 researched, built, and exhaustively tested a prototype filter to prevent microfibers from traveling to their water system. The students presented their issue to the mayor’s office and to the school community, and plan to patent and implement their filter in Laundromats statewide.

 
WMS Tree Titans, California
Team:
Cyana, Jessica, Kendra, Janelle, Yuko, Emmanuel, Tannya
WMS Tree Titans recognize the roles that trees play in our lives. They produce oxygen, they provide much-needed shade in the summertime, and more. After having seen a campus-wide loss of trees due to drought and other environmental tensions, the team, led by Dr. Susan Pritchard, introduced a multitiered plan to replant their school’s lost trees and make sure that they’re cared for properly. The students held fundraisers, collaborated with various school district officials, planted 20-plus trees, and more.

 
Styro-Terminators, New Jersey
Team: 
Sajoud, Michaela, Giovanna, Jennifer, Layla, Kalya, Juver, Briana
The Styro-Terminators concerned themselves with the environmental dangers of Styrofoam, an unrecyclable material that ends up in our oceans and on land and takes hundreds of years to decompose. The team, guided by teacher advisors Malissa Yabut and Robert O’Donnell, gathered and shared data after monitoring “superworms”—the larvae of darkling beetles—consuming Styrofoam and turning it into waste. Without harming themselves, the larvae break down Styrofoam and other kinds of polystyrene, thus suggesting a natural solution to a giant global problem. Not for the squeamish, but pretty cool.

 
Green Gals, Colorado
Team:
Devon, Piper, Sadie, Kaitlin, Charleigh, Hailey
The Green Gals team honed in on plastic bag use and its environmental dangers, citing the fact that 91% of all the plastic that Americans use gets thrown away or littered rather than recycled. Led by teacher advisor Heather Haney, the students surveyed their school and greater community to determine the popularity of reusable bags in the area. They heard from more than 350 people and shared their findings on their school’s campus and elsewhere, spreading awareness of the eco-hazards associated with plastic bag use.

 
Team PAN, Florida
Team:
Mariam, Keegan, Devyn, Bhavya, Joshua, Abigail, Aiden, Naima, Samuel, Carson
Guided by teacher advisor Kellie Keene, Team PAN’s project was as symbolic as it was a tangible, physical effort. The team created a school garden, but they did so with the use of discarded items that had been donated to them. After the team devised its plan for a school garden, they solicited donations. More than 2,200 discarded milk jugs, tin cans, water bottles, and other items made their way to Team PAN, and instead of going to a landfill, they’re brightening a school campus with vegetable and flower plants inside of them.

 
Gardeners of the Galaxy, Florida
Team:
Callen, Hadyn, Wesley, Daniel, Alessandro, Jonah
It’s all about hydroponic plants with Gardeners of the Galaxy and teacher advisor Lesa Bland. The team explored the benefits of raising plants with the use of a hydroponics system—above ground in a water-based setting that’s rich in nutrients—as compared to traditional farming. The team reported several benefits: Hydroponic plants grow quickly; they don’t require pesticides; and more. The students conducted research, got the word out about hydroponic gardening, planted a garden at school, and plan to donate their produce to a local homeless shelter.

project reservoir
 
HMS Backyard Backlash, Michigan
Team
: Seojun, Sully, Davin, Logan, Seth, Mercedes, Linda, Sonia, Micaela, Leah
Lake Superior—the largest, coldest, and deepest of the Great Lakes—is under a threat of contamination in places like Michigan due to the area’s large and growing population. HMS Backyard Backlash and teacher advisor Sarah Geborkoff conducted research and met with local scientists to learn about the dangers that synthetic soil and over-fertilization present to freshwater. They carried out soil experiments and planted bluestem grass around their school garden to prevent nitrates from damaging the area beyond its borders. The students shared their findings with their school and local media.

eco warriors
 
The Hydro Heroes, Kentucky
Team: 
Hannah, Riley, Luke, Lola, Jackson, Karsten, Ally
Not all heroes wear capes—switching to reusable water bottles is a small but important step that can reduce one’s contribution to the planet’s plastic pollution problem. The Hydro Heroes and teacher advisor Ashlie Arkwright encouraged their community to reuse water bottles rather than buying disposable ones. They secured donations from a reusable bottle company, sold 45 bottles, raffled off bottles, and circulated a pledge about using reusable bottles that earned more than 100 signatures. After the bottle sales and raffle, the team donated all proceeds to victims of recent hurricanes.

HIGH SCHOOL

project reservoir
 
The Almighty Algae, New York
Team
: Rishika, Sarah, Riya, Sanjana, Rachelle, Christy
Harmful algal blooms (HABs), which upset marine ecosystems and can be toxic to humans, have been naturally occurring in bays and ponds on Long Island, New York, for years. The Almighty Algae, guided by teacher advisors Serena McCalla and Michael Giallorenzo, chose to call attention to HABs with an informational campaign about their impact on local shellfisheries and more. The team partnered with local biologists, conducted field research, and set up an “Algae Day” in their community to spread the word, but also focused on the algae’s positive uses, such as their role in fertilizer manufacturing. The students collected algae and made their own fertilizer—they sold 50 bags of it and donated the proceeds to a local university for algae research.  

eco warriors
 
G.R.A.Y. (Greywater Recycling Action Youth), Missouri
Team: 
Saayli, Sydney, Joseph, Varun, Vanessa
Greywater conservation—which is the conservation of “gently used water” from washing machines, bathroom sinks, and more—was at the center of G.R.A.Y.’s plan. Teacher advisor William Bowman and his team hoped to raise awareness of the concept and decided to design a greywater conservation device. The students collected data with a water usage survey, partnered with local experts, and experimented heavily to determine which material would best fit their device, an apparatus to recycle shower water for use in toilets. A working model for use in homes is on its way—the students are finalizing their plans and are meeting with architects to address water regulations and more.

can you hear me
 
The Palm Frees, Missouri
Team:
Jane, Mia, Brigid, Leena, Allison, Emma, Annie
Palm oil can be found in a wealth of household products—everything from deodorant to ice cream. But producing this oil has an environmental impact, particularly on the rainforests being cut down for it and the wildlife that depend on those rainforests. It became the topic of focus for The Palm Frees. Led by teacher advisors Katie Wilson and Dawn Johnson, the Palm Frees thought: What can we make without palm oil and sell at school to draw attention to the eco-hazards associated with it? The students made and sold their own palm oil–free nail polish, deodorant, and lip balm and donated proceeds to a local wildlife foundation.

eckh20
 
Orbis, New York
Team:
Gabriella, Zachary, Marc, Katherine, Rohan, Wen, Arianna, Audrey
Nearly 80 of the sinks at team Orbis’s school showed lead levels at the legal threshold when they were tested by the state, a discovery that felt important enough for the students to build an Action Plan around. Teacher advisor Serena McCalla and her students contacted government officials about New York’s water contamination and petitioned the governor to develop and enforce legislation to mandate monitoring every school’s drinking water. They produced videos and a website to spread awareness of the issue, and after extensive research and experimentation, developed a water purifier that uses almond shells to naturally remove lead from water.

pesticide
 
WashPod, Oregon
Team:
Solomon, Tyler, Andrei, Culla, Katie, Layton
For their Action Plan, teacher advisor Dale Yocum and WashPod focused on improving living conditions for the homeless community while reducing water waste. They found that a lot of water used in their area is wasted, even though greywater (“used” water from showers and sinks) could be filtered and reused. The team purchased a trailer and partnered with a vocational school as well as members of the homeless community to retrofit it for the students’ installation of a shower and laundry facility. Their energy-efficient “WashPod” prototype will recycle greywater and use solar power.

 
Navajo Prep Flying Eagles, New Mexico
Team:
Sky, Jiles, Miauaxochitl, Lila, Keona, Xander, Kaylin
When the Environmental Protection Agency accidentally unleashed approximately 3 million gallons of mining waste into several bodies of water in Colorado in 2015, it contaminated important water sources for the Navajo Prep Flying Eagles’ community (and elsewhere). Led by teacher advisor Yolanda Flores, the team collected water and riverbed samples for careful chemical analysis to determine the exact level of toxicity that their community has encountered since the spill. The students have presented their findings—which indicate a high level of chemical elements and compounds in the Animas River—to their school and greater community.

 
3D Pneumatic Aerator Creators, Texas
Team:
Hunter, Kimmy, Austin, Isabell, Olivia, Ginger
When algae in a body of water increases in size and population at a rapid pace, it’s called a “bloom,” and algal blooms can consume large amounts of oxygen in an ecosystem and produce toxins that can be harmful to humans and the environment. Teacher advisor David McLoda and his students worked to prevent algal blooms from forming and keep their nearby bodies of water oxygenated with a cost-efficient aeration system. After conducting research and setting up a school recycling initiative, they built a prototype aerator with recycled plastics, 3D modeling software, and a 3D printer. They partnered with environmental agencies, and a local university endorsed their aerator design. The aerator is a success, and has been implemented at a nearby lake.

 
Kayak Club, Texas
Team:
Kathryn, Eric, Navya, Michael, Jackson
How can you truly solve a problem without seeing it up close? Kayak Club and teacher advisor Rebekah Cate boarded kayaks and canoes and explored local lakes to observe what kind of environmental issues were affecting them. The students conducted interviews with residents and shared their findings with their community about a significantly deteriorating local dam, pollution from runoff in one of the lakes, and the looming threat that natural gas drilling has on their region. Then Kayak Club went global—they raised funds to purchase and ship enough filters to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to yield more than 5 million gallons of clean water.

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