Last week, three Friday Harbor Elementary School students - second-graders Jodie Wehner, Ava Youngsman and first-grader Nancy Wehner - took first-place in the national Exploravision Competition for their project "Get Away! Bacteriophage."
Top row left to right: Teacher Sue Kareken, Nancy Wehner, Jodie Wehner (Bottom row) Mentor Dena Royal, Ava Youngsman
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.”
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. Unfortunately the trip was canceled due to the pandemic, however, there will be a virtual ceremony on June 5, 2020 with 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.”
Their coach Sue Kareken said, “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.”
Earlier this spring, three FHES STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) teams had received regional and honorable mention recognition for work submitted to this competition which is sponsored by the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) and the Toshiba Company.
The three elementary school teams started projects in September, working before and after school and on weekends with Kareken, Dena Royal and mentors Ayla Ridwan. Submissions consisted of a research paper and five web pages on paper.
Honorable Mention was awarded to the top 5-10% of projects nationwide. Two of the honorable mention commendations were for FHES teams.
Third-graders Theron Holden and Orion Marcy were honored for their project "DC Pods".
Third-graders Azalea Ross, Jessie Valencia, Nadya Troutman, and Kaylee Staudt were honored for their project "Odrone."
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!"