Congratulations to the Winners of the 2018–2019 Land & Water Challenge!
Team: David Barzideh, Brendan Shek, Chloe Zhang, Elaine Zhang, Andrew Zhao, Bryan Zhao, Patrick Zhao, Leon Zhou, and Kevin Zhu.
Location: Jericho, NY
Guided by teacher advisor Serena McCalla and mentors Susan Wu and Lisa Xiao, the SmartValve Grey2Green team tackled the problem of excessive water use and how it harms the environment. Their solution: implementing greywater recycling and raising awareness about the importance of water conservation locally and globally with the creation of the SmartValve Grey2Green system. After studying filters and consulting with industry experts, they created a three-way valve, which is capable of directing blackwater (dirty water) and greywater (reusable water) when connected to Smart Home appliances and plumbing systems within the household, such as laundry machines, dishwashers, sinks, and showers. They built three prototypes, with the third-generation model controlled by an EV3 chip, which can be voice-activated. The team has filed a provisional patent for the device, and also created a website, started an Instagram and email campaign, participated in a community service coastal cleanup project, and presented their research and models at a STEAM Exchange with Taiwanese Students, Pall Corporation, Hofstra University’s Robotics and Research event, among others.
Team: Lidieth Artica, Michaela Garrett, Annel Herrera, Karla Ronquillo, Sajoud Saleh
Location: Jersey City, NJ
The Snail Samurais and teacher advisors Robert O’Donnell and Joel Naatus took on the invasive species the Chinese Mystery Snail. The tiny animals, through their overpopulation, disrupt the aquatic ecosystem, competing with native species for habitat, space, and food. In addition, they clog up water intake pipes, and often carry parasitic worms that kill waterfowl and other animals. After finding them in their local reservoir, the team set out to try to regulate the snail population and find ways to use them in a positive way. After conducting experiments, they designed a reproduction study, a snail filter for improving water quality, and a snail native plant and algae consumption project. They also got the word out about adopting the snails as pets or using them as a food source. The Samurais spread their message via social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and a website. The group also organized presentations for younger students so they could learn about the hazards and potential of these creatures, too.
Team: Destiny Alger, Rela Bruce, Kailan Dutton, Alexandra Haggard, and Eliot Stevens
Location: Lubbock, TX
To enable visitors to explore caverns and see their beauty, many are illuminated by artificial light, causing algae to grow on fragile formations and in pristine pools inside. However, algae depletes oxygen and destroys the balance of microbial communities that have existed in caves for millions of years, ruining productive groundwater and ecosystems crucial to these communities’ existence. After visiting Carlsbad Caverns and learning about the algae issue, the Cave Rescuers, led by teacher advisor Laura Wilbanks, conducted research, interviewed cave specialists and optic physicists from Texas Tech University, and experimented with algal growth under various light scenarios to determine limiting factors. They conducted a public outreach campaign via flyers, social media outlets, and a website to publicize volunteer opportunities for algae cleanup. They also partnered with national cave organizations to change lighting systems in U.S. showcase caverns and reached more than 750,000 people with their cave protection message. The group was featured in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal as an innovative scientific research team and devised a hands-on and inquiry-driven children’s guide to protecting cave ecosystems.
Team: Braden Altman, Samuel Blackwell, Wesley Conner, Kim-Linh Vo, Rylan Bevis, Mallory Kallan, Alexandra Wizda, Nadia Khalil
Location: Lakeland, FL
The beloved manatee, known as the gentle giant of marine creatures, has declined greatly in population and at faster rates due to red tide, algae blooms, and speedboat engines. The “sea cows” play a large role in controlling marine plant growth in their habitat and need to be protected. The Mana-team, along with their advisor Lesa Bland, set out to rescue manatees in Florida and spread awareness of its path to becoming endangered and extinct. They contacted manatee sanctuaries to get more information and find out how they could help protect manatees, and enlightened their community as well as other schools to get more students involved. The team also presented their research at several community activities, such as Winston STEM night and the Lakes Festival—an event to raise awareness of all marine life problems around Polk County; the students were written up in the Lakeland Ledger. Profiles on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and a website also helped their cause. In their hydroponic garden, the group planted lettuce to harvest and donate to Sea World’s Manatee Rehabilitation & Rescue Facility.
Team: Adalyn Britton, Mallory Britton, Anela Hyrns, Griffin Lownds, Rachel Springer, Liam Szegda
Location: Whitehall, MI
Led by advisor Susan Tate, Plastic PURGE (People United to Reduce Garbage Everywhere) discovered that helium balloons rise in the atmosphere until cold temperatures make them break into tiny pieces that pose several dangers to wildlife and humans: entanglement, ingestion, and toxins that move up the food chain (we eat fish who have absorbed toxins from balloon fragments). To inform citizens about this issue, the team created a community beach cleanup bingo game and also volunteered as presenters at the Muskegon Country 3rd Grade Water Festival to teach younger kids about this problem, using examples like “Sea Turtle Hurdles.” They also constructed Land Use Impact on Stormwater Runoff models showing how runoff can carry balloon litter from the land into rivers and oceans; gave a presentation to Whitehall City Council and convinced members to draft an ordinance to ban helium balloon releases; and accomplished more education and outreach via various forms of social media and a display case at school. The news about their work got out even faster after a story about the team made the local paper, the White Lake Beacon.
Team: Shayda Alsalihi, James Cook, Violet Ferguson, Marianne Gebb, Nora Mack, Sofia Wu, Jayden Young
Location: Lexington, KY
When the group saw the stats on how many plastic bags end up in landfills (every minute, one million are used and discarded after 15 minutes, according to Plastic Oceans), they knew they had to do something about it. After seeing a video on how to make a reusable bag out of plastic bags, the team found their solution. Supported by teacher advisor Ashlie Arkwright, the Bagstreet Boys collected 1,325 plastic bag donations from their school and community to turn into reusable bags to sell. Those that didn’t get upcycled got recycled to Bluegrass Greensource, a local environmental organization. They also used interactive polls and surveys to engage and educate students at school on the impact disposable plastic bags have on the environment and why it’s important to avoid throwing them away. An Instagram page and website expanded their outreach; pre- and post-surveys showed a strong decrease in use.
The Arboga Wild Fighters
Team: Brayden Walker, Mary Banach, Mary Campos, Diana Castelo, Lucy Merrill, Samantha Chittenden, Savannah Metzger, Joseph Kelly, and Naly Vue
Location: Arboga, CA
California’s wildfires have devastated the state, leaving thousands to rebuild their lives and homes, and have destroyed the natural habitat animals and plants rely on. In addition, toxic smoke has polluted the air to dangerous levels. Guided by teacher advisor Debbie Jones the team educated their community in the following ways: organized school assemblies to inform students about the dangers of wildfires and how to prevent them; brought in local firefighters to explain the effects of deforestation; distributed flyers with information on how to avoid backyard burning in windy conditions and other precautions; and put a group together to pick up items in public areas that could start a fire and to encourage others to do the same. In addition, the Arboga Wild Fighters advertised their plan on a local radio station program, KUBA Radio with Willie B, as well as the school’s Facebook page and on other social media platforms.
Big Green Titans Team
Team: Samara Alonso, Daniel Rax, Alejandro Cortes, Juan Meja, Christian Campos Garcia
Location: West Covina, CA
While billions of pounds of plastic bottles are thrown away each year, only a fraction get recycled. In turn, this leads to incredible amounts of waste sent to landfills, impacting our ecosystem, health, and economies. Led by teacher advisor Michelle. Du, this group pledged to do something about this problem, specifically addressing plastic bottles that—instead of being recycled—get thrown away into water and parks, causing marine life, birds, and other animals to die. The group organized a team bottle pickup plan in parks and created a flyer to inform their school community.
Team: Emmanuelle Magliato, Spencer Koonin, Jacob Gaines, Krishna Koka, Tyler Locke, Shannon Gibson
Location: Lagrangeville, NY
This group decided to address persistent organic pollutant (POP) contamination in the Hudson River because of its many detrimental public and environmental health impacts. With the help of teacher advisors Maribel Pregnall and Tricia Muraco, the students concentrated on a class of POPs known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that bioaccumulate throughout the food chain and collect in the fish many in the community eat. They created an aquaponics system to act as a model to show how uncontaminated food can be produced sustainably. After visiting established aquaponics systems and local organizations and conducting extensive research, they created their own system and raised PCB-free brown trout as well as growing and harvesting 75 Bibb lettuce plants 12 times, feeding more than 300 faculty, friends, and family members. They got the word out about their quest, actively posting on a blog and YouTube, as well as Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms, and taught K-12 classes about their work. The team also showcased their research at the Cornell Putnam County 4-H fair and received an Award of Excellence, presented their findings at a number of school events and local groups, and received a write-up in the Hudson Valley News.
Guardians of the Garbage
Team: Devika Rajeev, Hannah Philipose, Arianna Pahlavan, Sebica Katel, Audrey Zhong , Danny Li, Le Zhang, Zachary Rosenfeld
Location: Jericho, NY
Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generation is expected to rise to more than 2.4 billion tons by 2025, due to rapid population growth and urbanization. To accommodate residual waste, landfills play an integral role for MSW disposal. Most landfill liners do not remain strong due to heavy wear and tear, and leak, resulting in groundwater pollution. In addition, petroleum hydrocarbon spills kill up to 25,900 marine mammals and 82,000 birds. The Guardians, aided by teacher advisor Serena McCalla, took on these issues by synthesizing an eco-friendly, inexpensive, and highly efficient polymer layer to absorb contaminant leakage, and also engineered PolyPetrol, a user-friendly app connected to a device that monitors oil concentration/possible leakage at oil rig sites. They also reached out to landfill waste management companies, government offices, and other community groups, as well as experts in these fields, then posted educational videos on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. In addition, the team designed a website that also boosted awareness and listed actions to take to reduce waste of all sorts.
Team: Michelle Briceno,Taj Diltz, Kiavash Kashanian, Moses Lin, Kayln Love, Shelby Luhring, Maggie McGrath, Zoe McKnight, Malcolm Oliviera, Zachary Siegel
Location: Frisco, TX
By taking an agricultural approach, the Special STEMS team showed it’s possible to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and cut down on food packaging to reduce landfill waste, soil erosion, and air pollution. They also strove to demonstrate that people with disabilities are not limited by their challenges but are able to be leaders in their communities and make vital contributions toward sustainability. Approaching their mission with help from Pam Carpenter, the group planted and harvested vegetables, fruits, and herbs at the Frisco community garden, hosted a fresh produce drive to create nutritional awareness, and started a vegetable garden project in Guatemala and seed projects in Uganda. They also: used Twitter to communicate their message of local agriculture’s environmental benefits; conducted polls, filmed videos, and posted updates; and started a dialogue with city leaders, community groups, and local nonprofits to create partnerships and support. A unique aspect of the team: five of 10 were from the school’s special needs program (called Functional Academics); the other five are general education students. Utilizing their Best Buddies chapter resources, they reached out to other campuses district-wide to hold similar produce drives to benefit Frisco Family Services. Because of that outreach and community impact, the city declared November 6 Special STEM Day.
Team: Sergio Briz, Eduardo Gonzalez, Alaysha Hampton, Ashley Harrison, Tyleek Jones, Jaila Stanley, Ashlee Walker, Kevin Washington, Larry Williams
Location: Houston, TX
With growing urbanization, aquatic habitats are being destroyed. In addition, the inability to find pesticide-free plants is a growing community concern. The AquaPioneers set out to discover a way to build an aquaponics habitat using cheap or recyclable resources that would naturally sustain the life of both plants and animals. With guidance from teacher, Timothy Lewis, they first visited shrinking aquatic habitats, then designed a mini simulation of one to determine an efficient and inexpensive path to sustainability. Using PVC pipes, clear bins, FlexSeal, zip ties, an aquarium air pump, a submersible pump and an ice machine tube, they created their test environment and added plants and fish. The experiment worked; the system was both functional and easy to maintain. The team then got the word out about their success and the importance of continuing their mission via daily updates on Instagram, Twitter, and a website.
Operation Endangered Species
Team: Olivia Baxter, David Bradford, Nicole Meimaris, Rose Sosnowski, and Catherine Zdunek
Location: Chicago, IL
The Alligator Snapping Turtle (AST) is currently classified as an endangered species; more than 3,000 hours of trapping has been recorded by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. ASTs are crucial to the environment because they will eat almost anything, which helps keep the ecosystem’s populations under control. Aided by teacher Todd Katz, the group sought to build up the AST population and end the lack of awareness about the endangered species by: getting 18 Chicago Public Schools involved; purchasing ASTs from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife with funds the students raised via a GoFundMe page and grant writing; purchased necessary equipment, such as tanks, filters, and turtle food; distributed one AST per school to be raised in classrooms for two years; had teachers create lessons based around the turtles and the environment; and after two years, with the help of teachers and supervisors, placed trackers on 300 turtles and released them back into their native Southern Illinois habitat. Currently the students are also developing a program to introduce Operation Endangered Species to classes in Erechim, Brazil.
Team: Abby Quinn, Clara Barton, Lily Baylis, Maria Knasel, Neve Stewart, Kristin Koneiczyny, Meg Baylis, Bridget Rasure, Starya Long, Caroline Fesler
Location: Saint Louis, MO
Since the 1960s, U.S. plastic production has increased without proportionate strategies for waste management, generating billions of metric tons of plastic waste. More materials are being dumped into landfills by private recycling companies because they can’t handle the financial burden of processing, leaving municipalities to figure out what and how to recycle. The Cap Queens, with help from teacher advisors Lydia Bach and Dawn Johnson, chose to focus on the lack of recycling education and misinformation surrounding the issue, and encourage upcycling as an alternative. The group collected plastic bottle caps, made locker magnets to post information about recycling and upcycling, and got the Lower School Science Club involved by having younger students help them create a playground mural using magnets and bottle caps. They also went into fourth and fifth grade classrooms and gave presentations on the topic. The sixth grade is now in the process of developing apps to improve recycling habits and send out alerts of recycling industry developments.
Team: Keith Neil, Ashantay Griffin, Alesia Nez, Kammy Sue Atcitty, Filisi Mauga, Keona Hosteen, Kamia Leano, Kiera Charley, Sky Harper
Location: Farmington, NM
After noticing their school cafeteria had more than 10 trash bags filled with Styrofoam containers plus extensive cardboard trash in dumpsters after every meal, and researching how these materials pollute and fill landfills, K4AsF Eagles decided to reduce, reuse, and recycle the trash. Led by advisor Yolanda Flores, they decided to make bricks from shredded cardboard and Styrofoam mixed with cement. After sending mini bricks to IBM for 3-Point fracture tests in an Instron compression machine, they were able to come up with the right quantities of materials to produce reduced-weight bricks that had reasonable strength for long-term use. In connection with the Going Green with the School Garden project, they used the bricks to pave the garden’s patio. To publicize their efforts, the group created flyers, posters, and social media sites informing the community about their efforts to help both the school and the environment. Going forward, the team will push the school community to opt for reusable plates, cups, and utensils, and will also recommend ending Styrofoam use.
Team: Isabella Brakhage, Benjamin Rosen, Isha Batra, Madison Rippetoe, Luke Wolsko, Mana Setayesh, Jessica Kalloor
Location: Lafayette, CO
In Colorado, there are more than 30 endangered species, all of which contribute to the state’s biodiversity. The Endanger Changers made it their mission to protect these animals and work to keep them from extinction. In addition, they strove to educate people on how critical it is to save wildlife and lower the rate of endangered species. The students, advised by teacher Kristie Letter, created a foundation and website to illustrate the problem and how the community can help; it included interactive games for each animal to help children understand the problem, too. In addition, the team created an Instagram page and an informative brochure about their quest, and partnered with the Thorne Nature Center and WILD local organizations to help get the word out.