What were you doing at ages 10 and 12? Anya Gupta and Annabella Meisner-Lopez were just named winners in a prestigious national competition.
As fifth- and sixth-graders at A.D. Henderson University School, they developed a way to turn plastic pollution in the ocean into fish food.
Their STEM teacher Jennifer O’Sullivan said she screamed so loud when she got the news on a weekend, she alarmed her family. “We’ve had six honorable mentions, but never winners,” she said via Zoom, careful to explain this is “technology for the future. They used a 3-D model and animated it. The model is digital.”
The girls placed second for their grade level in The Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association’s ExploraVision challenge, dubbed “the world’s largest K-12 science competition. For 29 consecutive years, it has helped children expand their imagination and have fun while developing an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education at an early age.”
Working as a team, they developed the BioBot Super Enzyme, which would “rapidly break down plastic collected from rivers and oceans, converting it into micronutrients for the ecosystem.”
That’s not all: The BioBot would be contained in an “Interceptor” using AI [artificial intelligence] and drone technology, solar panels and supercomputers to manage the enzymes. Additionally, the “BioBot Tracker App” would allow scientists to track the Interceptor’s progress in real-time.”
Impressed yet? Their winning entry comes with an extensive website: https://nstawebdirector.wixsite.com/biobot
It tracks the history of ocean plastic pollution and breakthroughs: “You may have seen ocean cleanup devices before, but we’ve taken it to the next level” the landing page says: There’s even a video.
The students each received a $5,000 U.S. Series EE Savings Bond at maturity for their project and a computer.
Both students described themselves as “great friends.” Anya said her Pennies for Penguins project won an award, but this was Bella’s first win. Both are attracted to STEM, but too early to commit to a career choice, they said.
On Friday, June 4, the contest winners were honored in a virtual ceremony, the announcement said. The eight winning projects reflected ideas ranging from AI-powered toothbrushes that can detect viruses, to eco-friendly diapers that reduce carbon emissions.
By Marci Shatzman