The Siemens Foundation, Discovery Education, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and the College Board announced today the grand prize winners of the fourth annual Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, a national sustainability challenge for K-12 students.
In addition to several other prizes, the high school grand prize winning team will receive $50,000 in scholarship money to divide among team members and a chance to present their project at a prestigious venue. Each student on the middle school grand prize winning team will receive $10,000 in savings bonds and a Discovery adventure trip to Alaska. Elementary school winners receive a Discovery Education assembly focusing on sustainability and grant for their schools.
High School Winners
Grand Prize Winners: Team Pinelands Eco Scienteers – Pinelands Regional High School – Little Egg Harbor, N.J.
- Team Pinelands Eco Scienteers discovered that using wood from nearby forests is the only option for cooking meals in many parts of the world, which results in deforestation. The team was chosen for its project, which focused on developing a viable alternative through which wood is replaced by biomass waste products such as peanut shells, pine needles, banana peels, sugar cane waste and corn stalks. The project tested methods of preparing biomass materials for briquetting and the design of low cost easy to ship mini-presses.
Second Place Winners: Team Chargers – Providence Day School – Charlotte, N.C.
- Team Chargers developed a method of harnessing energy through electromagnetic inductance in an effort to become less dependent on non-reusable energy. By inserting spring-loaded “cells” made of copper coils and magnets into a standard anti-fatigue mat, team members were able to store energy that could power simple, life-saving devices, such as a steripen. This power has the ability to affect not only members of team Chargers’ own community, but communities around the world, where clean drinking water and heating sources may not be as readily available.
Third Place Winners: Team George Mason Recycling – Governor’s School @ Innovation Park – Manassas, Va.
- Team George Mason Recycling was chosen for its investigation on the current level of recycling plastics at George Mason University’s Prince William Campus. The team measured the effectiveness of different placements of recycling and trash bins and instituted a system of punishments and rewards for recycling. The team saw increased recycling awareness on campus and hopes to improve recycling rates even more.
Middle School Winners
Grand Prize Winners: Team Americans Idle – All Saints Regional Catholic School – Manahawkin, N.J.
- Team Americans Idle was chosen for its project addressing the problem of voluntary car idling. In addition to changing the drop-off and pick-up process at their school, Team Americans Idle members instituted outreach efforts and designed innovative technology devices that remind drivers when they are idling for more than three minutes. These efforts have been the catalyst for legislative initiatives in New Jersey.
Second Place Winners: Team Compost Happens – South East Junior High School – Iowa City, Iowa
- Team Compost Happens was chosen for its project on environmental problems associated with the compaction of food waste in landfills and how to change attitudes and behaviors within its community with a food waste diversion program. Schools, neighborhoods, grocery stores and restaurants participated in the project. Data showed that significant volumes of food waste were diverted from landfills as a result of the project. The students also worked with legislators to craft a bill that addresses food waste.
Third Place Winners: Team Black Gold Miners – Raymond J. Grey Junior High School – Acton, Mass.
- Team Black Gold Miners was chosen for its project on helping to reduce trash in its community through composting. The project involved raising awareness about composting among town residents and proposing school-wide and town-wide composting plans. The team’s research included conducting a town-wide survey about composting, consulting with officials from the Massachusetts DEP, as well as taking field trips to area farms and universities that run successful large-scale composting programs. To increase public awareness, the team created a website containing facts and a “how-to” guide about composting in addition to presenting research and action plans to the Acton Board of Selectman and school officials.
Elementary School Winners Grades 3-5
Grand Prize Winners: Team Give A Hoot! – Mount Madonna School – Watsonville, Calif.
- Team Give A Hoot! was chosen for its project on environmental threats to the Western Burrowing Owl. Students conducted habitat restoration, environmental clean-up and created educational binders and signs. They conducted scientific experiments to discover how native plants benefit this owl and how it reciprocates. Based on their findings, students wrote, directed and produced an educational film that has and will be shown in many venues. The film dramatically illustrates what could happen if people don’t protect this owl. Donations will be invested with local conservation groups working to protect the owl’s habitat and in Kiva.org, a micro-loan organization that brokers small loans to help subsistence people purchase tools, supplies and equipment.
Second Place Winners: Team Gilmour Gforce – Gilmour Academy – Gates Mills, Ohio
- Team Gilmour Gforce was chosen for its project to reduce its community’s use of fossil fuels and help prevent global warming. The students collected data on their school’s energy use and used that information to decide which initiatives to start. Students created posters, brochures, graphs, videos and PowerPoint presentations to help educate their community on how they can save energy. They have become energy conservation experts and activists as a result of their initiatives.
Third Place Winners: Team What a Waste! – Buena Vista Elementary School – Walnut Creek, Calif.
- Team What a Waste! was chosen for its project on the excessive the amounts of waste created at their school during lunchtime. The team members quantified the problem and then created a plan to decrease food waste at their school.
Elementary School Winners Grades K-2
Grand Prize Winners: Team Second Grade Science Club – Concord Hill School – Chevy Chase, Md.
- The Second Grade Science Club was chosen for its project on reducing water run-off from its school campus. The team worked to decrease any pollutants in run-off and clean water waste. Through careful observation of the school’s site and school buildings, the team noted that new trashcans with lids were needed, that there were major leaks in the school’s gutters and that many of the school’s water fixtures were leaking. As a result of the students’ work, the problems have been fixed. The team also planned the installation of a rain barrel and a rain garden to clean water run-off before it enters the local culvert. Finally, the students taught the student body what they had learned in an interactive, demonstration-rich assembly.
Second Place Winners: Team Earthlovers – Parley’s Park Elementary School – Park City, Utah
- Team Earthlovers was chosen for its project starting a cafeteria recycling program in its school. The team wanted to reduce the amount of garbage going from the cafeteria to the landfill, educate students and faculty about cafeteria recycling and provide a model for a sustainable cafeteria recycling program. The data recorded by Team Earthlovers shows that the weight of garbage going to the landfill each week was almost cut in half because of recycling. Students, faculty and parents are more aware and involved in reducing, reusing and recycling as a result of the team’s project.
Third Place Winners: Team Energy Patrol – Lincoln Avenue Elementary – Lakeland, Fla.
- Team Energy Patrol was chosen for its project on identifying sources of energy waste and developing solutions to conserve energy school-wide. Using a variety of sources, as well as data collected during school patrol, team members identified air conditioners and computers as the main energy wasters. Students formed an energy patrol to help teachers and classes change behaviors by setting air conditioners on no lower than 72 degrees and making sure that all computers are asleep or off when not in use. After three months of patrolling, they noticed significant changes in behavior and their energy bill.