Past Winners of the Lexus Eco Challenge

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2016–2017 Air & Climate Challenge! 


Aether Air, Pennsylvania
: Connor, Kent, Michael, Rowan, Tristan, Stephen
The World Health Organization reported recently that some three million deaths annually are related to outdoor air pollution. Led by teacher advisor Ryan Bookhamer, Aether Air aimed their efforts at improving upon the problems with the common dust masks—and other face masks—that people in places like China use to protect themselves from air pollution. After careful research, planning, and spreading awareness that included meetings with the EPA and more, the team designed their own innovative protective mask, which they hope to get on the market soon.

Bettair, Missouri
Oluwatobi, Deepa, Jeremy, Yan, Clay, Thomas
Pet dander, dust, cigarette smoke—a number of factors can affect the air quality within your home. Bettair and teacher advisors Karen LaFever and William Bowman took to researching ways to reduce the impact of these common pollutants and others, and sought ways to inform their school community about their findings. They created ozone test strips to determine the level of ozone in the air at school, collected 120 responses from the school community on their air quality survey, shared their findings about improving indoor air quality with elementary school students, and more!

Catlin Gabel InvenTeam—JuiceBox, Oregon
Solomon, Anjali, Katie, Layton, Tyler, Culla
Teacher advisor Dale Yocum and JuiceBox characterized their Action Plan as the result of acting “at the intersection of environmental and humanitarian work.” They put their efforts toward providing clean, renewable power to shelters that their community had built for its homeless population. After the students collected large batteries that had been discarded after a robotics program at their school (and held a battery-collection drive to procure more), they began work on storing energy from the homeless shelters’ solar panels in the still-viable batteries, which will power lighting and mobile device charging ports for these residents!

Energized Elite, Oklahoma
Dalton, Abby-Grayce, Eli, Samantha, Chase, Lillie, Harley, Kyla, Madi
After Energized Elite determined that too many of their classmates were willing to drive to school rather than to carpool, the team sprang into eco-action on an educational campaign about global warming and the emissions daily activities produce. Teacher advisor Annie Keehn guided her students in submitting articles to the school paper, developing a proposal to have bike racks built on campus to encourage biking, and organized a “carpool day” at school that saved more than 1,200 pounds of emitted carbon dioxide. The other students are hoping that the carpool day becomes an annual event!

Greenhouse Gladiators, Massachusetts
Spoorthi, Yanxi, Molly, James, Adam, Sydney, Zoe, Nathan, Anna, Jia
For teacher advisor Cate Arnold and her team, working toward curbing the effects of climate change means “educating others” and “high-impact actions.” These actions are broad in nature but speak to a common goal. First, Greenhouse Gladiators encouraged folks to show their competitive spirit by getting community members to pick up trash and recyclables on and near school grounds for a prize. The team distributed their own “Turn off the lights!” doorknob hangers to the school’s faculty, and they’re pushing city officials to ban single-use plastic bags. They’ve also partnered with a local organization that is identifying and fighting gas leaks in their state, and more.

Enerjagers, Ohio
Esther, Jadalise, Alicia, Faith, Joslyn, Stephanie
Enerjagers and teacher advisor Mary Ellen Scott took aim at reducing the consumption of fossil fuels in their community. The students employed a series of energy audits in their school to help determine how an energy-conscious attitude toward use of lighting, smartboards, and more might contribute to savings. They designed and built a solar-powered fan for classrooms to help conserve energy, and with stainless cutlery and reusable dishware, the team served more than 700 meatless meals during an “alternative energy showcase” they held for the community that featured guest speakers on this very important topic!

The Milky Way, New Mexico
Kirsten, Aaron, Lance, Samuel, Megan
Researchers found that approximately 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 were attributed to agriculture. Methane makes up 11 percent of the country’s overall greenhouse gases, and raising domestic livestock produces large amounts of methane. The Milky Way and teacher advisor Laura Wilbanks want to reduce methane emissions and improve the diet of dairy cows in their county. They’ve spoken to science classes about their efforts, have published newspaper articles, and have partnered with Cornell University to connect with more than 70 dairies in an effort to test a digestive enzyme for cows that will help reduce methane emissions.

Watt’s Up Frisco, Texas
Wail, Arvind, Avery, Kylie, Abigail
Half-Watt Wednesdays, Watt Watchers, an energy-saving competition…these are only some of the programs that Watt’s Up Frisco and teacher advisor Kimberly Church implemented on a school district–wide basis to battle greenhouse gas emissions in their community. And they’re clever ideas: Half-Watt Wednesdays, for example, called on teachers and staff to reduce their energy use once weekly (nearly 90 classrooms across 21 campuses participated), while a school-wide “heatless lunch” found the team working with their school’s nutrition expert and collecting student suggestions for cold meals. They distributed more than 100 free recipes to help stem reliance on fossil fuels at lunchtime!


BiOJH, Utah
Emma, Delaney, Carson, Eliza, Anna
A smart alternative to fossil fuels, algae fuel is safe for the atmosphere and has little impact on freshwater resources. Teacher advisor JoAnne Brown and her students—inspired by their research and the fact that an algae bloom had recently caused the parks department to close a local lake—decided to grow their own algae and turn it into biofuel. The team partnered with a local tech school, scoured local fish stores and park ponds for algae, and fostered an ecosystem for reproduction/growth in large bottles (the algae took three weeks to harvest). BiOJH demonstrated that algae as a fuel burns cleanly and shared its findings with local elementary school students and online.

CO2 Eliminators, New Jersey
Yannet, Albania, Rachel, Gabriella, Kelsey, Ariana, Karys
In 2013, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the state of New Jersey increased for the first time in several years. Teacher advisor Andrew Vedder and his students turned to the natural power of plants to absorb the wealth of carbon dioxide being produced in their hometown. They conducted extensive research on which plants would absorb the most CO2 and how well each plant would survive. After collaborating with a local conservation group, the students are developing a way to improve upon their public space, which will include a safe, protected environment for their “carbon dioxide-scrubbing” plants.

WMS Coral Keepers, Michigan
Marek, Hailey, Lelaina, Mikayla, Brooklynn, Justice, Shelbie, Leah, Sarah
WMS Coral Keepers, guided by teacher advisor Susan Tate, were true to their name over the course of the Air & Climate Challenge. The students took to spreading awareness of ocean acidification, which is an increase in the acidity of Earth’s seawater due to climbing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They created presentations for the school’s staff and student body, posters about eco-conscious decisions for local businesses and schools, and a PSA video about ocean acidification. They also designed and distributed light-switch-plate stickers to remind members of the community to help reduce carbon emissions!

In the Zone, Florida
Sushil, Brian, Cade, James, Brady, Agastya, Luke, Nolan
How do solar panels contribute to reducing reliance on fossil fuels? In the Zone and teacher advisor Lesa Bland focused on solar energy for their project and talked to scores of folks about minimizing the effect of ozone depletion in the atmosphere. The team organized “Solar Day” at school to promote solar energy and to explore how we can all reduce our contribution to the depletion of the ozone layer. They gave presentations to 220 students in their school’s science classes, explaining how solar energy is a viable alternative to fossil fuel use!

Monoxide Mavericks, Mississippi
Jacob, Selena, Tyrin, Alexander, William
Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that can be produced by ordinary household appliances. It’s a common safety hazard in the home—even mild exposure to it can make people sick, and severe poisoning is deadly. Monoxide Mavericks and teacher advisor Melissa Corry wanted to alert their community about the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The students reached out to their state senate office and circulated a petition to make it mandatory for carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in every school. They gave presentations and made posters about the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning, and invited local firefighters to visit their campus and discuss appropriate safety measures!

The Greenhouse Effect, Rhode Island
Leah, Elizabeth, Julia, Eric, Ava, Jordan
A homemade greenhouse was at the core of The Greenhouse Effect’s action plan. The team, guided by teacher advisors Mike Blackburn and John Worthington, not only focused on designing and building a greenhouse, but also aimed to spread awareness about the benefit of taking care of our green spaces and the positive effects of greenery on our atmosphere. The students built their greenhouse, utilizing a glass dome to retain the humidity inside, and successfully raised grass and beans with the help of an innovative drip irrigation system!
The Light Savers, Ohio
Emily, Tatum, Payge, Monica, Tony, Datone, Angel, Ryan, Paloma, Matthew
Last year, an energy audit conducted at The Light Savers’ school indicated that a lot of energy was being wasted. Teacher advisor Angela Germano and her team split into two groups: one sub-team would handle promoting the cause of conservation while the other handled fund-raising in order to install occupancy sensors at school to save electricity used on lighting. The team’s posters promoted turning off lights, and pledges created by the team were distributed to encourage energy saving at home. Motion sensors installed in five rooms will save money each year on energy bills and reduce CO2 output!

The Seed of Flame, California
Amirah, Alyssa, Blythe, Grace, Maddie, Summer, Denali, Bryce, Ben, Addy
Teacher advisor Katrina Leni-Konig and The Seed of Flame directed their efforts toward the importance of air quality after a wildfire burned nearly 4,500 acres of land in their home state of California in 2016. The students constructed a forest nursery, put out a successful call for seeds to populate the nursery, helped replant devastated forest areas, and more. The team collected several thousand seeds from their student peers and planted 15 cuttings in areas in need of reforestation!

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2016–2017 Land & Water Challenge! 


Environmental Wolves, Colorado
Lisandro, Jazlyn, Paulethe, Kenneth, Brandon, Lily, Sieairra, Kalie, Kimi
Do you know what macroinvertebrates are? Environmental Wolves do. Led by teacher advisor Katie Lunde, this team studied what might be causing a local decline of macroinvertebrates—animals without backbones, and specifically the aquatic insects in their nearby Gore Creek. They discovered that man-made pollution, and in general the town’s human population, has disrupted the local ecosystem over the years. They’re continuing to collect data, share their findings with the greater community, and plant native vegetation on the stream banks!

Team Water Bottles, Pennsylvania
Team: Grace, Alexandra, Lily, Kirby, Melissa, Meredith
Team Water Bottles students and their teacher advisor David worked to reduce plastic waste on their school’s campus and are currently taking steps to eliminate “single-use” plastic waste entirely. Thanks to the team’s influence, the school has recently installed bottle-refilling stations. Team Water Bottles is going to brand and sell reusable water bottles and is producing an instructional film to teach the school community how to use the filling stations. They are also pressing the administration to discontinue purchasing and selling “single-use” water bottles.

H2O Hotties, Utah
Madison, Sydney, Sadie, Ruby, Afton, Mary
Within the next 50 years, experts estimate that Utah will be hit by a damaging earthquake. Teacher advisor JoAnne Brown and her H2O Hotties set their sights on pure water, a resource that can become scarce when a natural disaster strikes. The students collected 67 large water bottles and many more half-size bottles. They learned how to recycle and reuse plastic water bottles as homemade water filters and then taught 50 students on campus and at nearby schools how to do it!

Pleasant Plains MS Green Team, Illinois
Olivia, Amelia, Sierra, Izabella, Alli, Emma, Brandi, Emily, Jessica
The monarch butterfly is a pollinator to trees and plants that produce food, and the species is slowly disappearing. Led by teacher advisors John Barrett and Aimee Eddington, Pleasant Plains MS Green Team students took action to inform their community on the significant decline of monarch butterflies—and of milkweed, where they lay eggs—in the state of Illinois. They had an article published in the local newspaper, they presented their concerns to city council members, they produced a video for the school community, and they’re working with the greater community on planting milkweed!

Team D.R.O.N.E., New Jersey
Fritz, Ryan, Daniel, Samantha, Diana
Team D.R.O.N.E. (Drones Recording Our Natural Environment) set its sights on tree health. Led by teacher advisors Joel Naatus and Robert O’Donnell, the team recognized that without healthy trees, there is more CO2 in the air, more call for air-conditioning, and other issues of concern. They’ve mapped/documented 26 trees in their parks and community with a drone in order to track the trees’ health over different seasons, are sharing that data with local organizations, and are learning what types of trees to plant and where based on the information!

S.O.A.P. Stars, Michigan
Mallory, Anéla, Griffin, Rachel, Liam
The FDA recently banned the marketing of certain antibacterial washes and soaps because they contained active ingredients that could pose health risks for consumers. Manufacturers were allotted a year’s time to comply with the ban, so teacher advisor Susan Tate and S.O.A.P. (Students Opposed to Antibacterial Products) Stars worked to raise awareness of the issue. They produced a video with their message (viewed by 254 students!), had a letter published in the local newspaper, and visited a number of local businesses to share the facts about antibacterial soap dangers!

To Bee or Not To Bee, Florida
Yukta, Ifeoma, Alyssa, Victoria, Emerson
Honeybees—important pollinators that play a direct role in the food supply chain—are widely disappearing all over the United States due to diseases, parasites, impacts from pesticides, and more. Teacher advisor Lesa Bland and thoughtful human be(e)ings To Bee or Not To Bee conducted a great deal of research to learn about the decline of honeybees and planted a bee-friendly garden on their school’s campus, which is all abuzz following informational presentations from the team. They educated community members about the topic at a local festival.

Flood Fighters, Florida
Noelia, Julio, Frederick, Jaime, Ricardo
Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which can carry and spread deadly diseases. Flood Fighters, led by teacher advisor Louie Remy, took aim at reducing the chance of hazardous street flooding and standing water by focusing on keeping storm drains clear and free of debris. Based on the model that most people use to catch leaves in their homes’ rain gutters, the students fashioned a successful “gutter guard” with plastic mesh to prevent trash from being carried by rainwater into their school’s storm well. They’re also spreading awareness of the problem within their school community.


project reservoir
Runoff Resolvers, Texas
: Hunter, Kimmy, Nolan, Aadit, Leo
Teacher advisor David McLoda and the Runoff Resolvers dug into their state’s rainfall data and the impact of wastewater discharges on the health of the Trinity River. In an effort to reduce the level of pollutants in the river, the students partnered with local environmental groups and found sponsors to help them install bioswales, which are landscape elements that are intended to trap pollutants, reduce acidity in the water, filter out fertilizer chemicals, and more. At school, they shared lessons about protecting their natural resources and hosted community events to promote their ideas.

eco warriors
EcoNarcs 3.0, California
Esther, Sandra, Royce, Anna, Marlene, Armin, Samuel
An invasive species called Sargassum horneri was first collected on California’s Long Beach Harbor in 2003 and has since spread widely on the coast, displacing types of seaweed on which lots of organisms rely for food. EcoNarcs 3.0 and teacher advisor Dominique Evans-Bye learned all about the species and its benefits to humans, and shared their findings. The students snorkeled and gathered samples, conducted a chemical analysis of Sargassum horneri, mapped their sightings using geographic information system mapping software, and guest lectured at a nearby college on their research.

can you hear me
The Water Warriors, Oklahoma
Keagan, Darrian, Joey, Dalton, Michael, Brooke, Savannah, Rebekah, Gracie, Trinity
A side effect of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”—a method by which oil is extracted from deep inside the earth—is wastewater injection, in which water is injected into the earth. The Water Warriors and teacher advisor Annie Keehn explored the connection between wastewater injection and seismic activity. In Oklahoma, where they live, there were 109 magnitude 3+ earthquakes in 2013; by 2014, the tally was at 585. The students researched the effect of wastewater injection, presented their findings at school, interviewed local elected officials and a state geologist, and reached out to three major oil companies about this important issue.

Yarmouth Shellfish Nursery, Maine
Connor, Ben, Clementine, Grady, Duncan
The European green crab, an invasive species, has been a troublesome pest for years in Maine, and has been particularly dangerous to the state’s soft-shell clams population. Local aquaculture—the raising of soft-shell clams in a protected tank and silos (an upweller)—seemed like a prudent move for teacher advisor Morgan Cuthbert and his students on the Yarmouth Shellfish Nursery team. After partnering with local officials, professors, marine organizations, and businesses, the students designed and built their own upweller system to raise clam seed in order to study the mollusks, spread awareness, and help repopulate local wetlands.

Aquasorb, New York
Brandon, Brian, Rohan, Mansi, Emma, Ben, James
Teacher advisor Serena McCalla and Aquasorb are heavily invested in the health of marine and terrestrial environments in their community—specifically, the impact that water pollution has on those environments. The students conducted scientific research on the contamination caused by the presence of heavy metals as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in their water, and their plan of action was multitiered. Aquasorb met with local water experts about taking political action, shared their research in order to spread awareness about what can be done, and organized a school battery drive for responsible disposal of batteries.

H2O: Helpful2Organisms, Missouri
Aditya, Oluwatobi, Deepa, Jeremy, Yan
Water conservation and reducing pollution are at the center of an action plan from Helpful2Organisms and teacher advisors Dr. Karen LaFever and Dr. William Bowman. The students conducted deep research at five local water sites, singling out the most common dangerous chemicals for presentations they made to nearby elementary schools about pollution and smart conservation practices. They’ve also created a survey about water management that will reach more than 3,000 students and produced blueprints for a solar-powered water heater.

Kohala Ocean Clean-Up Crew, Hawaii
Zazttaney, Duncan, Nicole, Maya, Naomi
Hawaii’s Kohala Ocean Clean-Up Crew concentrated on the nonbiodegradable plastics that threaten our planet’s bodies of water. Led by teacher advisors Marcus Douglas and Duncan Anderson, the students started at the source—they spoke with members of the community and conducted presentations about recycling plastics at school. They testified before a county committee on environmental management about securing park recycling stations, produced an educational video on plastics’ impact, and collected about 700 pounds of debris at beach cleanups.

SUA Soil Savers, Ohio
Nuurah, Alexa, Sara, Madeline, Kathryn, Sarah, Hannah
Back in 2014, some residents of Ohio were told not to drink or use their tap water after a city plant found that it was unsafe. Officials said the water was likely harmful due to an algae bloom. SUA Soil Savers report that these blooms can be caused by the placement of dredged sediment in lakes. New legislation bars companies from placing the sediment in lakes, so teacher advisor Jackie Kane and her students helped local engineers in their quest to find a farming benefit within the issue. The team helped test the success of vegetation growth on dredged sediment, reached nearly 5,000 students and parents in presentations about their efforts to produce crops on the sediment, and connected with local and state officials about the problem.

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