Past Winners of the Lexus Eco Challenge

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2015–2016 Air & Climate Challenge! 


Team TEG, South Carolina
: Zach, Taylor, Andy, Jason, Bryce
Thermoelectric generators (TEGs)—a mouthful, but also a means of clean, renewable energy that teacher advisor Susan LaFlam and her team take seriously. Team TEG conducted research and experimented heavily to gain an understanding of the positive points and effectiveness of thermoelectric generators. They’ll soon market the benefits – no CO2 emissions, low maintenance—to local power companies to encourage them to offer discounts to customers who install TEGs!

Young & Renewable, Florida
Sean, Amanda, Dominique, Julianna, Hunter, Maria
True to its name, Young & Renewable sought information about renewable energy sources before concentrating solely on the benefits of carpooling. Led by teacher advisor Monica Mejia, the team took to educating young minds in their community. The students created worksheets and developed a presentation for a nearby school and after-school care program about the environmentally sound decision to carpool, an effort that prevented the production of more than 39,000 pounds of additional greenhouse gases in their neighborhood!

Methane X, New York
Brian, Grace, Kendra, Adam, Jacob, Nathaniel, Madelaine
Produced by landfills, fracking, and more, methane is the “second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities,” reports the EPA. Teacher advisor Serena McCalla and her team already know as much, having researched this issue quite a bit in order to tackle it for the Air & Climate Challenge. At school, they created presentations about composting and wrote about it for their newspaper, while their community-wide efforts included talking and presenting to politicians, local organizations, and more!

Hydro-Cats, Ohio
Hunter, Ray, John, Mitchell, Matt
The students on team Hydro-Cats have been growing plants in hydroponic systems for the last couple of years, but have only just recently implemented a composting process for reusable waste. Teacher advisor Doug Emancipator and his team gathered data and successfully developed a worm-composting system that yielded a “sustainable and renewable hydroponic nutrient” for their plants. The Hydro-Cats had compost bins installed at school, and are speaking to the greater community about its benefits!

EnerGenius, Missouri
Aerin, Sarah, Christina, Aditya, Claire, Jillian, Thomas
The idea of “starting small” is at the center of EnerGenius’s Action Plan—there are little things that can be done daily to reduce the size of your carbon footprint! Teacher advisors Dr. Karen LaFever and Dr. William Bowman and their team presented to more than 100 middle school students, created plans for a solar-powered holiday light system, and will be educating more than 4,000 students for a district-wide “Green Week” in February.

Cricket Busters, California
David, Devon, Karo, James, Khachatur, Sipan, Aren, Manuk, Cynthia, Fatma
The Cricket Busters team and teacher advisor Dominique Evans researched the disadvantages of reliance on fossil fuels and took an innovative educator’s approach to getting the word out. The students created a series of web maps that supported the use of alternative energy forms and outlined the harm related to nonrenewable fuel sources. Then they linked those maps in a single journal online and authored lesson plans that connected to each map, submitting the plans to educator websites and various online lesson content hubs!

C.E.N.A., Virginia
Andrew, Daniel, Juan, Blake, Lavonte
The enterprising students on team C.E.N.A. built their very own solar panel, but tied the effort specifically to demonstrating how a county-wide solar-powered system would benefit their community significantly. Teacher advisor Stephen Meade and his students graphed the predicted energy use in their county and with their research illustrated that a solar-powered system is far more cost-effective than the region’s current reliance on fossil fuels.

Catlin Gabel InvenTeam, Oregon
Jake, Aidan, Robin, Beatrice, Claudia, Katie
Teacher advisor Dale Yocum and his team’s research uncovered that the average car in their city’s metro area travels 12,500 miles yearly and releases nearly 11,000 pounds of emissions into the atmosphere. Frightening, right? Encouraging a carpool campaign at Catlin Gabel InvenTeam’s school was a logical next step, and so they mapped out the structure of a web application that could be used across the district to schedule and set up carpool rides. Nearly sixty percent of students interviewed pledged to use the app!


Team E.L.L.I. (Food Miles), New York
Jessica, Patrick, Jack, Anish, James, Noah, Beatrix, Ferah, Nicholas, Chase
Led by teacher advisors Rebecca Glavan and Juile Feltman, Team E.L.L.I. (Eat Local Long Island) endeavored to “make the community aware” of the importance of reducing our collective carbon footprint. They took on a farm-to-table approach with respect to their school cafeteria and restaurant owners, encouraging folks to buy local and to work on reducing their carbon footprint in other ways. The team contributed an op-ed to their school paper, presented to the district’s health and wellness committee, and more.

The Spectrum, Georgia
Luma, Olivia, Mekenzie, Sarah, Alisha
Georgia’s The Spectrum turned their sights toward Haiti, specifically, Haitians’ use of lump coal, for their Action Plan. Lump coal is a primary source of fuel in Haiti, and contributes significantly to the region’s air pollution problem. Teacher advisors Eric Knapp and Nolan Gottlieb and their team partnered with Georgia Transmission Corporation to begin work on an engine that runs on compressed air in order to help counter Haiti’s reliance on fossil fuels, such as petroleum.

Big Foot!, Florida
Sushil, Ifeoma, Aubrey, Melanie, James, Cade, Juliette, Brian
In an effort to educate its community on the benefits that reducing carbon emissions can have on the planet, Big Foot! and teacher advisor Lesa Bland offered a diverse Action Plan. The team emphasized the impact of our carbon footprint with informational videos and materials to market their ideas, a successful carpooling program, and a school recycling plan that yielded 220 pounds of recyclable waste weekly!

Daylight Wednesdays, California
Skylar, Jack, Mason, Samara, Emily
Daylight Wednesdays isn’t only the name of this spirited team from California—teacher advisor Andrew Miller and his students put together a petition to get homeowners in their community to pledge to turn off their lights for two hours each Wednesday. They secured more than 130 signatures—and are still going—and estimate that by allowing natural light to illuminate your home between noon and 2 p.m. each Wednesday, the effort can help reduce five million kilowatts of electrical power annually!

The Green Machines, New Jersey
Hannah, Michaela, Sarah, Charlie, Julia, Erik, Hailey, Alicia
Prizes in a weekly raffle rewarded students who attend school with The Green Machines in New Jersey for their use of eco-smart items, such as thermoses or metal water bottles every day. The team’s “No Waste Wednesday,” an effort guided by teacher advisors Patricia DiChristofaro and Allison Stathius, encouraged more reusable containers at lunchtime and reduced waste from the cafeteria by about 60 pounds per grade!

Mighty Meat Minimizers, Kentucky
Abigail, Aedon, Angie, Jacqueline, Katherine, Nolan, Shannon
Animal agriculture produces a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, and the livestock industry in the US is behind only China in size. Mighty Meat Minimizers and teacher advisor Ashlie Arkwright turned to meatless meals to emphasize this industry’s carbon footprint. They surveyed their school community, circulated a pledge to encourage people to eat two or more meatless meals weekly, shared information as well as vegetarian meals and recipes, and are assembling an online veggie cookbook!
The Antidote for Humanity, Colorado
Gianni, Owen, David, Sam M., Chase, Sam I.
Vehicle emissions were at the center of the Action Plan from The Antidote for Humanity. Teacher advisor Heather Haney and her team conducted research on the impact of carbon emissions on our atmosphere and shared it with the school’s student body in support of their campaign—encouraging their peers to carpool or walk to school or ride the bus for three days in a week during December. Data from their “test week” shows that they decreased CO2 emissions for a day by about 34%!

The No Drive-Thru Crew, Kentucky
Samantha, Morgan, Vicky, Niki, Mary Beth, Abigail, Helena
Can we get fries with that? NOPE. Teacher advisor Ashlie Arkwright and her team say “Don’t do drive-thru”—the amount of CO2 our vehicles emit while idling at drive-thru restaurants can be avoided easily. After their research showed that 35% of their peers were hitting the drive-thru once weekly, the No Drive-Thru Crew put together a live presentation as well as brochures and more to spread the word about the eco impact of drive-thru restaurants. They gathered more than 70 signatures of students who pledged to cut down on their weekly drive-thru trips and are still going strong.

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2015–2016 Land & Water Challenge! 


Anthosavers, New Jersey
Maria, Jeremy, Sean, Julia, Karen
What’s a “beesafe”? Ask The Anthosavers—guided by teacher advisors Robert O’Donnell and Joel Naatus, they’re working on a device to protect honeybee hives from extreme temperatures, mites, and disease so that bees in their region can push forward in their important role as pollinators! They partnered with beekeepers, did tons of research, and marketed their ideas widely. A beesafe prototype is on its way to working model status.

Growing Food, Growing Community, Colorado
Vincent, Taha, Daniella, Jessica, Tiaira, Anise, Scarlett, Samuel, Yamilet
Growing Food, Growing Community discovered a pressing need for fresh and inexpensive food in their region. Teacher advisor Mandi Leigh and her students took aim at revamping and growing an existing campus garden project, but they also put a regular “farm stand” into rotation to sell vegetables to their school community. They encouraged classes to incorporate the garden in their lessons, raised awareness of its importance with elementary school students (150 of whom learned how to compost and recycle as a result), and hosted a big harvest dinner for parents and teachers, and more.

Aquaponics, New Jersey
Malk, Maya, Noah, Neil, Layaly
Rapid increases in the growth of algae, which are called algal blooms, can prove harmful to a marine or human ecosystem. Aquaponics, led by teacher advisors Robert O’Donnell and Joel Naatus, turned to hydroponics to prevent algae from blooming in their local reservoir. Hydroponics meant that the students would use certain plants to absorb the excess phosphorus and nitrogen that cause algal blooms—they’re testing their ideas heavily in local ponds and are growing fungi on an island to filter out E. coli and prevent blooms in the reservoir!

Wahsi Squad, Illinois
Waleed, Amira, Hana, Saad, Ibrahim
For more than one winning Land & Water team this year, conservation of monarch butterflies—which are dwindling in number due to concerns, such as human construction, herbicides killing off their food, and more—was at the center of the Action Plans. Led by teacher advisors Kulsum Musani and Meenara Khan, the Wahsi Squad connected with local butterfly experts and organized a popular cupcake fund-raiser to help disperse seed packets for milkweed, a plant on which monarchs rely for survival.

The Water Guardians, California
Fiona, June, Jessica, Angelina, Alma, Vanessa
The Water Guardians and teacher advisor Dr. Susan Pritchard took on water conservation for their project, seeking out a number of ways to reduce water use at their school. They’re working on replacing sod on campus with drought-resistant plants, they encouraged the school district’s plumber to reduce the water flow from the building’s hand-push faucets by one-third, and they are waiting on developments regarding their push for low-flush toilets, water-efficient faucets, and more!

The KMS Recycling Cougars, Georgia
Aaditya, Alexander, Ashvij, Sanjeev, Sooriya
While the KMS Recycling Cougars took on the singular topic of water-bottle recycling for their Eco Challenge project, teacher advisor Luan Nguyen and his students didn’t set their sights on just one mode of action. They forged a number of recycling partnerships with local businesses and organizations, set up a recycling drive that yielded 700 used bottles in one week, and collected more than 600 signed pledge forms from people who support the Cougars in their efforts to reduce our impact on the environment!
The Stamping Mad Gremlins, Michigan
Yvonne, Hunter, Gabrielle, Soham, Shweta, Gretchen, Olivia, Camille, Gabrielle, Zoe
It would be difficult to ignore the impact that the mining industry has had on the region of Michigan that The Stamping Mad Gremlins call home, specifically the high levels of copper in the area’s freshwater ecosystems. Teacher advisor Sarah Geborkoff and her students scoured a local polluted lake to understand the negative effects that unhealthy levels of copper can have on a community. They dug into contaminated soil and ponds on their school’s campus, collecting and analyzing data for the purposes of rolling out a big phytoremediation program, which means that they’ll plant grasses and more that will reduce or level out copper-contaminated ground and bodies of water!

JAMIS, Florida
Seth, Juliette, Aubrey, Ifeoma, Melanie
Members of the Central Florida community where JAMIS lives are aware that herbicides are killing off milkweed, the sole food for monarch butterfly larvae and a plant that is reliant on the butterfly for pollination. However, in an attempt to remedy the issue, those kindhearted folks are planting the wrong kind of milkweed, a nonnative strain called tropical milkweed that causes disease in monarchs and can prevent their yearly migration. Teacher advisor Lesa Bland and her students spread the word about the milkweed mistake and created indoor and outdoor gardens at their school to offset the problem—raising caterpillars in the indoor garden. They started nearly 100 plants in their indoor garden, including the proper milkweed, and have 100 more seeds of three more species on the docket!


project reservoir
Nueva Eco Ambassadors, California
: Kylie, Audrey, Julia, Vickie, Tori
As the number of acres burned in California forest fires reached staggering heights in 2014, teacher advisors Hillary Freeman and Amanda Alonzo and their Nueva Eco Ambassadors rightly highlighted the importance of water conservation. The team researched and proposed implementing a “graywater system” at its school to filter water from bathroom sinks and water fountains for landscaping. A building committee is exploring plans for two of the school’s campuses!

eco warriors
MSM Honey Belles, Arkansas
Lauren G., Chloe, Erica, Lauren J., Catherine W., Catherine D., Maria, Rachel
Bee populations are in decline for a number of reasons. No one can dispute their importance to agriculture, and led by teacher advisors Marcella Melandri and Marianne Nolley, MSM Honey Belles found a solution for keeping their local bees healthy by building an urban garden at their school. For now, they’ve developed campus recycling and compost programs, they’re installing rain barrels and a solar timer to water the forthcoming garden as necessary, and are working on a complex irrigation system.

can you hear me
The Noteable Recyclists, Oklahoma
Samantha, Duncan, Russell, Ryan, Jackie, Carrie, Alicia, Keygan
Recent budget cuts made at the school that members of the Noteable Recyclists attend rendered a paper-recycling program too expensive to support, so teacher advisor Annie Keehn and her students sought out a frugal solution and got to work. The team’s brainstorming led to a brilliant idea: Collect discarded paper and cardboard and assemble notepads—they’re making nearly 30 pads a week, and have contacted more than 60 other schools to encourage implementing their plan.

Let’s Go Batty, Kentucky
Morgan, Joyia, Isabella, Katie, Abby
A number of endangered species of bats make their home in the Kentucky community where the Let’s Go Batty team goes to school. Bats prey on mosquitoes, and as a result of the dwindling bat population due to disease and loss of habitat, the number of mosquitoes in the region has grown. In order to protect their nocturnal neighbors and prevent the use of more chemical pesticides, teacher advisor Catherina Sammons and her team connected with local park officials and built a bunch of bat houses, each ready to host 100 bats each!

Viz Monarchy, Missouri
Annie, Gaby, Izzy, Caroline, Erika, Anna, Emily
The population of monarch butterflies in the United States has lessened considerably over the past couple of decades. In a Missouri community, the impact that herbicides is having on milkweed contributes to this decline, and teacher advisor Monica Merkley and her students took it upon themselves to help these beautiful pollinators. After loads of research and outreach efforts, the team is working on installing a raised garden of milkweed and native plants on their school campus.

The Endocrime Fighters, New York
James, John, Luke, Kira, Hali
Endocrine disruptors—chemicals that prevent normal functioning of hormones and cause other negative effects—can be found in everyday personal-care products, such as sunscreen, face lotion, and more. When those disruptors get washed down our drains, they mix with our drinking water. The Endocrime Fighters and teacher advisor Maribel Pregnall employed a broad approach: conducting research, touring the local water treatment plant, producing an all-natural homemade skin lotion, presentations to parents and students, and more.

The Planeteers, Massachusetts
Fahad, Miren, Ethan, Manan, Ariana, Tracy, Susan
The multipronged Action Plan from teacher advisor Catherine Arnold and the Planeteers hinged on personal efforts to stem our impact on the health of the environment: a community cleanup initiative promoting reusable shopping bags, a school event to boost water conservation efforts, a new campus recycling program, and instituting a “Meatless Monday” in the school cafeteria. They’ll also fund a summit this year to get students from more than 50 area schools to join them in their mission(s)!

CCBB Cricket Busters, California
David, Devon, Karo, James, Khachatur, Sipan, Aren, Manuk, Cynthia, Fatma
Across the globe, billions of people depend on fish in their daily diet. In the Pacific Ocean, the population of a species of fish called rockfish is in decline due to overfishing, and CCBB Cricket Busters, led by teacher advisor Dominique Evans, explored the nutritional value of…um…insects in order to direct attention toward the idea of bugs as a source of protein. The team took to hands-on research and experiments in testing the development of healthy habitats for rockfish conservation and analyzed its cafeteria food versus food made from crickets to gather data on the nutritional value of both.

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