Friday Harbor Elementary School STEM Team is 2020 First Place National Winner in Toshiba/NSTA Exploravision Competition

Teacher/Coach Sue Kareken; Nancy Wehner, 1st grade; Jodie Wehner, 2nd grade; Coach Dena Royal, and Ava Youngsman, 2nd grade meet via Zoom

Last week, the national winners of the Exploravision Competition were announced and the first place-winning project was Get Away! Bacteriophage, submitted by Friday Harbor Elementary School (FHES) students Jodie Wehner, 2nd grade, Ava Youngsman 2nd grade, and Nancy Wehner, 1st grade.

Earlier this spring, three FHES STEM teams had received regional and honorable mention recognition for work submitted to this competition sponsored by the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) and the Toshiba Company.

As first place winners, Jodie, Ava and Nancy each won a $10,000 savings bond for education, an iPad, and an Echodot along with an expense-paid trip to Washington, DC for an ExploraVision awards weekend. The trip was cancelled due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, there will be a virtual ceremony on June 5th that will include surprise guests from around the world.

The students developed their idea with the help of their coach/teacher Susan Kareken and mentor Dena Royal. As stated in their materials, “…warmer water temperatures cause harmful algae blooms to grow.  This can harm starfish, sharks, fish, dolphins and especially coral.  The Get Away! Bacteriophage mini submarine will detect if the harmful algae bloom levels are getting high enough to be dangerous to these animals. If so, then it will release phages that will kill the harmful blooms.”

According to their coach, Sue Kareken, “We went into this thinking it would be fun just to get students thinking about real world problems and maybe come up with some solutions. It is truly overwhelming that we won! And what a great surprise during this crazy time. It shows that students, with perseverance can make a difference in the world.”

The three elementary school teams started projects in September, working before and after school and on weekends with teacher Susan Kareken and mentors Dena Royal and Ayla Ridwan. Submissions consisted of a research paper and five webpages on paper.

Honorable Mention was awarded to the top 5-10% of projects nationwide. Two of them for FHES teams. One of these teams included Theron Holden, 3rd grade, and Orion Marcy, 3rd grade. Their project is titled DC Pods.

A second Honorable Mention Team included Azalea Ross, third grade, Jessie Valencia, third grade, Nadya Troutman, third grade, and Kaylee Staudt, third grade, with their project titled Odrone

As the competition’s website states, “The ExploraVision competition for K-12 students engages the next generation in real world problem solving with a strong emphasis on STEM. ExploraVision challenges students to envision and communicate new technology 20 years in the future through collaborative brainstorming and research of current science and technology.”  

Friday Harbor Elementary School Principal Caspar van Haalen said, “Not only does this exceptional award recognize the talented budding scientists that submitted their projects; it also represents an incredible level of academic curiosity and care about our island environment nurtured within our elementary school learning community. I am extremely proud of the students and staff!”

Posted on May 13, 2020 at 4:12 pm by

Categories: Education, Nature, People, Schools, Science

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