2020 eCYBERMSSION National Finalists

The moment is upon us...we have made it to our 18th Annual National Judging and Educational Event (NJ&EE)! Though the event is a little bit different this year, being fully virtual, we still wanted to highlight all the hardworking and dedicated students that made it to NJ&EE as our 2020 National Finalists. The level of committment, intelligence and teamwork is astounding and these teams deserved to be recognized. We want to say a huge CONGRATULATIONS to the following teams, as well as quickly showcase their projects...

6th Grade National Finalist Teams:

S Cubed (Super Superior Scientists)
Lake Linden Hubbell High School | Lake Linden, Michigan
Team Members: Megan Sutherland, Samantha Blake, Isaac Johnson
Team Advisor: Gretchen Hein
Team Summary:
The Super Superior Scientists (S Cubed) integrated a food waste reuse program throughout the K-12 classes that their school. This involved monitoring the garbage generated from lunch over a three week period; then repeating the monitoring when the food waste was separated. They saw a 50% reduction in the mass of garbage and the reduction of at least one dumpster of garbage when comparing the pre- and post-data. The food waste was given to a local farmer who used it as the feed for his pigs.

Stone Hill Middle School | Ashburn, Virginia
Team Members: Jimmy Do, Siddha Bambardekar, Neeraj Dandamudi, Aneesh Josyula
Team Advisor: Heather Jackson
Team Summary:
Our project’s goal is to provide an innovative, easy, cheap and portable solution to combat the water pollution menace. Our aim is to help people around the world that don’t have clean drinking water. Our solution: Stack-O-Filter, which is a stackable canister based filter, which can be snapped to form a portable and eco-friendly water filter. Our filter uses cheap and easy to find materials to make it easy to replace. The materials used are also biodegradable and eco-friendly. The beauty of our design is that, depending on your environment, you can change the contents of the filter, making it versatile. This design is putting filtration materials in small, removable and snappable canisters. We incorporated different items to include in our filter that will help us clean out water. Examples are cilantro, which lets water through and absorbs heavy metals, and charcoal that can filter out dirt and bacteria. We used Science to find out which filter components can filter out which pollutants. We used Engineering to filter out the pollutants effectively, Mathematics to figure out how big our creation should be and how much water it should hold. Lastly, we used technology, an online website called Tinkercad to create a 3D replica and prototypes which use the filter parts. Our project will help poor and developing countries that don’t have enough money to have elaborate filtration systems. It will also help campers and people who go out into the wilderness because they won’t have a big water purification system with them at all times. They can use this because it is small, cheap and portable.
*STEM-In-Action Grant Recipient

Carbon Keepers
Community Led - Science Rocks U | Lubbock, Texas
Team MembersFelipe de Farias, Briley Siemens, Eliza Cole-Smith
Team Advisor: Laura Wilbanks
Team Summary:
The United Nations’ Global Goals include urgent action against climate change to change the world for the better by 2030. Taking this to heart, Carbon Keepers learned that soil carbon sequestration is a process in which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and stored in soil as organic matter. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 746 billion-tons of CO2 are captured annually, but much more is released into the atmosphere. Soil could be the secret weapon to mitigate climate change, but to what degree? Alongside local and federal community partners, and with university mentors, soil treatments were applied, and carbon sequestration was measured in response to drought, salinity, acidity, wildfire, and fertilizer. Further research led to the use of soil treatments such as manure, mycorrhizae fungi, and compost to hold carbon. Grass was planted in soils from five regions, adding four concentrations of the treatments, for over 200 samples and five repetitions. After four weeks, the plants and roots were analyzed. Carbon organic matter in the soil greatly increased with the use of mycorrihizae as an additive. More carbon in the soil means less carbon in the atmosphere, positively impacting climate change and resulting in healthier soil. The findings were featured at a state soil conference and received global interest from ten countries. Developing networks and conducting outreach was extensive. We translated materials online and in print in six languages and on all seven continents. What’s App was used for virtual meetings with agricultural leaders worldwide. Outreach will be key for those with the greatest potential to impact climate change - farmers and ranchers. Together, we can reduce CO2 using a secret weapon: soil.

WSMS Gladiators 1
White Station Middle School | Memphis, Tennessee
Team MembersNeha Kodali, Emma Wei, Aditi Arunprakash, Kelly Chiu
Team Advisor: Chaka Carter
Team Summary:
Our team's Ecybermission project is about acid rain and the harmful effects on plants. This is a preliminary project, and, in the future, we hope to use more samples. Since it is also winter, we could not do as much as we expected with the plants. We made an imitation of acid rain and a buffer solution. The buffer solution was made of baking soda and water and had a pH of 7. The imitation of acid rain was made from diluting vinegar with water and had a pH of 4. Our team mixed 5 teaspoons of each and we found out that the buffer solution neutralized the acid rain. We used STEM in several different ways. We used the science of acids, bases, and pH levels. There is technology involved because we had to do a tremendous amount of research. Engineering was included because Neha made the buffer solution and the imitation of acid rain. Finally, math was incorporated because our team had to precisely measure out how much of each ingredient, we would need to make the buffer solution and the imitation of acid rain. This project will improve our team's community because it will help neutralize the extra acidity the soil receives. This way, the people of our world will be able to still consume plants without having health issues.

We Matter
Hyde Park Middle School Academy of Science & Mathematics | Las Vegas, Nevada
Team Members: Candace Hou, Glynnie Wu, Zoey Lacson, Julianne Warren
Team Advisor: Judith Kraus
Team Summary:
Clean water. It is a simple concept, but not everyone has access to this basic and well needed resource. Increase in population, advancement in technology, and manufacturing has contributed to the contamination of water. Water pollution happens when unhealthy substances such as chemicals, and micro-organisms contaminate large bodies of water, degrades the water quality and delivers it toxins to humans and the environment. Contaminated water, not only one of the causes of death around the world, is also one of the leading factors of childhood sickness and high rates of infant deaths. Clean water is essential to our existence, because it nourishes our bodies. Our project’s practical use, its portability, the cost to make it, will be able to solve our community and the world’s water contaminant crisis. Our water filter will be low cost and available to those who need it. In Nevada's desert water is scarce. Even if you have water available in your household, the water is not always at the level needed for health. Generally, water should be neutral or a 7 on the pH scale. This is a change from the typical bottled water which can range dramatically from 4 to 9. Our filtered water hits on the higher end with an average of 8. The filter helped clean water impurities. A defective filter could lead to particles falling into the filtered water. We used a precise measurement in our framework for stability, and prevent impurities or particles falling into the filtered water.

7th Grade National Finalist Teams:

The Four Musketeers
Kings Junior High School | Kings Mills, Ohio
Team Members: Michael Worthington, Natalie DeVage, Claudia Ragsdale, Addison Bays
Team Advisor: Vonda Fruhwirth
Team Summary:
The global problem of ocean “ghost nets,” abandoned or lost fishing nets, is causing death and destruction to ecosystems by endlessly trapping and killing marine life. Synthetic nets also release toxins into the water and marine life are harmed by ingesting net pieces. Humans consuming affected fish also consume net particles. Computer research indicates current solutions involve tracking and recovering nets. Since a proactive approach is necessary to battle the haunting nets, the biodegradable materials, bamboo, hemp cord, hemp rope, silk yarn and sisal rope were researched. Calculated measurements were used to construct a weighted, multi-monofilament gillnet called, “The Ghostbuster.” In a controlled tank of saltwater, the gillnet’s floating ability was tested, as well as a 28-day biodegradability test. Net weight and visual inspection of net components for biodegradation were assessed at preset intervals where the net was briefly removed from the saltwater. The collected data indicated that the prototype gillnet floated properly. It surprisingly absorbed increasing amounts of water weight over time, causing flotation to occur lower in the tank. Once dried and returned to the saltwater, the gillnet floated properly again. There was no visual evidence of biodegradation during the short testing period. Further assessment of the engineering design would be beneficial in order to test the total time required for complete biodegradation. Experimenting with other biodegradable material combinations could also prove promising. Additionally, testing net durability and the amount of weight the gillnet can safely hold would provide valuable information toward the implementation of a biodegradable gillnet.

The Marvelous Mosquito Marauders
Stone Hill Middle School | Ashburn, Virginia
Team Members: Ajay Penugonda, Samvrit Rao, Avni Garg, Amulya Gottipati
Team Advisor: Heather Jackson
Team Summary:
Mosquito-borne diseases affect millions in US and around the world. In many developing areas of the world, they are one of the top causes of mortality and morbidity. Mosquitoes breed in areas with stagnant/standing water. If we can tackle the problem of stagnant water, we can prevent breeding of mosquitoes and mosquito borne diseases. Based on our research, we found that there is a gap and delay when the community members want to convey information to city/ county authorities about possible areas of mosquito breeding and reports of mosquito borne diseases. The problem we are trying to solve is bridging the communication gap between city authorities and the community. A second problem we are attempting to solve related to mosquito borne diseases is the delay in disease reporting by health services to city authorities. Our solution is a crowd sourced app that will help city authorities easily locate these sources of standing water where mosquitoes are breeding along with a real-time reporting tool for local physicians to report clusters of patients who have mosquito borne diseases to the city authorities with geo-location. We used STEM extensively in our research, design and development. We used scientific methodology to analyze the problem and design the survey. To build the app we used engineering skills and technology tools. To analyze the test results, we used scientific methodology and math. Overall, the app will help significantly reduce the incidence of mosquito-borne diseases by providing real time access to critical data to city authorities.

*STEM-In-Action Grant Recipient

Code Red
Southcrest Christian School | Lubbock, Texas
Team MembersAlexa Tindall, Josiah Morales, Ethan Djajadi
Team Advisor: Milene de Farias
Team Summary:
Firefighters are our hometown heroes. We depend on their sacrifices to save our lives but they do so at great personal risk, not only from a bravery standpoint, but from health risks related to their career. There is a 47% chance that a firefighter will have a cancer diagnosis and half of those will be fatal. Sixty percent of line-of-duty firefighter deaths are from cancer. These are staggering statistics, and Code Red is determined to find ways to lower the risk. Several types of testing took place as we searched for a solution. First rinse water from engine seats was evaluated using a photon spectrometer. Next, bioassay toxicity tests were performed on Daphnia magna. Next, straps were sewn from donated bunker gear and effectively collected contaminants from firemen inside structure fires. Then strap-contaminants were identified using x-ray fluorescence. Finally, 30 samples of rinse water were taken from 4 different cycles of washing bunker gear and analyzed using an Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectrometer Results show dangerous elements on the gear, in water exposed to smoke, and in rinse water collected between wash cycles of bunker gear. Gross decontamination on site with water-only was found to have some effect on reducing exposure but washing gear multiple times instead of once greatly reduced the level of contaminants. Using a 3-pronged approach including education, prevention, and contribution, these findings were reported to career firemen, and the 70% of firemen serving on volunteer forces. Armed with knowledge, we hope to save the lives of our heroes and my dad.

Thermo Kitchen Hawks
Charlotte Latin School | Charlotte, North Carolina
Team MembersVirginia Foster, Jenna Heustess, Maya Belton, Dariyah Strachan
Team Advisor: Barbara Morrow
Team Summary:
The Thermo-Kitchen Hawk team’s project aimed to assist northern Ugandan women extract deadly carbon monoxide fumes from their huts. These fumes are undetectable without carbon monoxide detectors, which are not commonly used in the huts of the northern Ugandans. The team started the project by first researching relevant topics, such as exhaust ventilation systems, thermoelectric generators, circuitry, and Ugandan huts, and then they proceeded to build prototypes following the engineering design process. The final prototype used thermoelectric generators to convert heat from a cooking fire into electricity to power a fan to extract the carbon monoxide fumes. The team also implemented all parts of STEM into their testing and final design. For science, they wrote up several lab reports during the testing phase, for technology they implemented the use of a 3D printer, soldering irons, and Tinkercad. For engineering they designed the model Ugandan hut using CAD software, and then used a 3D printer to print the design. Finally, the team utilized math when making tables for lab reports showing data collected during testing, and for calculating the costs of materials. Math was also used to calculate electrical current, resistance and voltages. This project greatly benefits northern Ugandan women and children, and largely eliminates the risk of them being exposed to potentially fatal carbon monoxide fumes.

Lost and Found
Stoller Middle School - Robo Rink | Portland, Oregon
Team Members: Shreyas Ananth, Kapil Kakodkar, Rishab Madhusudhan, Tejawani Datla
Team Advisor: Ananth Sankaranarayanan
Team Summary:
We are team Lost-and-Found, in Seventh grade from Stoller Middle School and RoboRink in Portland, Oregon. According to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), over 600,000 US persons went missing in 2019, costing nearly $2B in search and rescue, with our home state Oregon ranking third in the country. An NCIC guideline describes a missing person as those who have gone missing “due to personal choice, an abduction, foul play, a mental or physical disability, or a natural catastrophe, among other reasons.”. Many of the existing tracking devices such as smartphones or devices used to monitor bird migration have limited battery life and have expensive recurring monthly fees. Our team “Lost and Found” was set out to reimagine the search and rescue operation and create, a cost-effective, self-charging, location monitoring device as a footwear insole. We collected feedback from neighbors who had missing family members, Oregon Search and Rescue leaders, three industry experts from Intel (semi-conductor leader), Nike (apparel leader), Meggit (piezo paint), and local 3D printing experts to build a prototype, the “Third Eye”. Using piezoelectric pads, we converted the mechanical energy from motion to electrical energy to power our location monitoring device, which connects wirelessly to parents or guardians’ phones, for a one-time cost of $100, which can be subsidized by partnering with local counties. We tested our prototype functionality in our neighborhood and received positive feedback from industry experts on production viability. In the future, we hope to transmit GPS data in real-time through the use of an application on family and friends’ mobile devices and can possibly alert authorities with the push of a button.

*STEM-In-Action Grant Recipient

8th Grade National Finalist Teams:

Community Led | Naperville, Illinois
Team Members: Meera Dullur, Anna-Maria Olarov, Pramithi Kandalai, Aaryana Parekh
Team Advisor: Srimani Chakravarthi
Team Summary:
Plastic waste is an issue that we see in our community. We throw away single use plastic that cannot be recycled, with no other method of disposing it. The focus of our project is to create a sustainable compost bin that can degrade low density plastic bags in households and use only bio-organisms. As we chose the engineering design process, STEM was implemented in all aspects of our project. Science was used in our preliminary research. We collected information on the various organisms that we learned degraded plastic and determined the best ones to use. Engineering was the most challenging aspect of STEM, as we had to create a successful model that would incorporate the waxworms and mealworms to degrade plastic bags. During our engineering process, we built and tested multiple prototypes until we constructed one that satisfied all of our main criteria and limits. We used math to calculate the impacts our design could make based on our observations as well as the measurements of our design in order to make it efficient and compact. We used technology tools like Google docs, slides, forms, canvas and Sketch-up to do research, communicate, and create our designs. Using technology to create our designs helped us visualize our design and made it easier to see the different measurements. Through our research and testing we conclude that our product is a cheap, feasible method of degrading plastic. It will benefit the environment, help reduce plastic waste, and make an impact in our community.

Rocky Run Middle School | Chantilly, Virginia
Team Members: Saranya Gadwala, Remi Ladia, Anish Paspuleti, Advaith Gajulapally
Team Advisor: Hima Lanka
Team Summary:
The problem we strive to address is the third-largest source of water wastage in households: the water used in showers. People don’t realize the excessive amount of water that they use in the shower, so we plan to reduce water usage by implementing our solution. Our solution is a device that reduces the overuse of water by alerting the user to leave the shower after a certain amount of water is used. We originally researched related products in the market and noticed that even though there were a few items, they were either costly, unsafe, or lack features that would make them a quality product. After extensive research to design and develop a product that was environmentally friendly, we built a cost-effective, hydro-electricity powered device with cutting edge IoT technology using Arduino IDE. Our device measures the volume of water generated using magnets and sensors that calculate the volume of water used through formulas involving the number of rotations from a paddle wheel inside. Not only does this device allow users to set a recommended threshold to receive an alert from a buzzer, but it also stores and displays information in an accompanying application, where data is constantly updated. Along the way, we received encouraging feedback from knowledgeable experts at George Mason University Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and Fairfax Water authority. We’re excited that this product can easily adapt to numerous applications in households as well as in commercial industries, and we hope to make Aquatech’s vision a reality!
*STEM-In-Action Grant Recipient

Taos Tyger Lab | Taos, New Mexico
Team MembersAriana Maestas, Ilana Pereyra Weisfeld, Benjamin Froeschle
Team Advisor: Laura Tenorio
Team Summary:
A carbon footprint is the total carbon emissions an individual puts out. Carbon is the basis of all life, and we need it to live, but too much carbon contributes to a phenomenon called the greenhouse effect that accelerates climate change. The focus of this experimentation is to determine if polymers and biopolymers – carbon chains themselves, can continue to increase their carbon bonding to keep carbon emissions out of the atmosphere and sink them into the soil. By producing small terrarium chambers using potting soil and the individual polymers, the carbon sequestration was tested by placing dry ice on top of the soil, then sealing over the top of the dry ice with the polymers. pH paper is placed on the bottom of the soil, as carbonic acid, which is produced when carbon oxides come in contact with any water molecules will change the color of the paper in the presence of carbon. This will be tested until the dry ice is completely sublimed, and then for 24 hours afterwards to determine if carbon was sequestered in the soil. It was determined that the corn starch polymer, followed by polyvinyl acetate, polystyrene, sodium polyacrylate and finally guar gum and chitosan, did sequester carbon emissions. The corn starch polymer sequestered it for the longest period of time and did not break down where others did. This information does partially support the hypothesis. Future efforts would include determining a biopolymer that could extract atmospheric carbon emissions and then sequester them.

 WES Tech
Greenbrier Middle School | Evans, Georgia
Team Members: Leland Green, Samuel Weinstein, Kendall Schneller, Jordan Epstein
Team Advisor: David Philips
Team Summary:
The concept created by WES TECH is a self-sustaining home. The home uses renewable energy sources for a cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and readily available solution. The key aspects, which include the technology and engineering portions of STEM, combat the use of fossil fuels, as well as include solutions for problems in impoverished areas where lack of power and clean water are a continued crisis. In the solution, WES Tech used wiring, an Arduino, and other electronics to control the water pumps, solar panel, and lights. Team planning and engineering were critical throughout every phase of building the house. We began with original sketches and continued to construction and engineering to implement all major components of the home. Three different power sources and two water sources are included as technology in the design and final product. Rainwater is naturally collected in the pipe located on the roof of the house as groundwater is transferred to the same pipe. The water falls into the water wheel creating electricity and causing water to be forced through a filter resulting in clean, consumable water as it is moved into the house. The solar panel is a secondary source generating electricity for the house that creates another option and method for energy storage. Overall, the WES TECH solution creates a viable and low-cost solution in the form of a self-sustaining home for impoverished areas to gain access to electricity and clean drinking water, which are considered human necessities.

Fueling Change
Community Led | Stansbury Park, Utah
Team Members: Gavin Murdock, Anna Van Moorlehem, Sara Gibbons, Katelyn Gibbons
Team Advisor: Lora Gibbons
Team Summary
The focus of our project was to solve a problem with a problem. We experimented with using Eurasian milfoil, the invasive lake weed in our local lake, as a biomass source to make a biofuel which contributes to solving the larger scale problems of global warming and Utah’s inversion. Biofuels are a nearly carbon-free alternative fuel, and thus can help with the growing problem of global warming by helping reduce the amount of carbon emissions going into the air. These emissions are one of the greatest causes of pollution during the inversion in Utah and contribute significantly to an increase in global warming. Being able to utilize our invasive lake weed to produce a biofuel would help not only our community, but our state and eventually the world. With the aid of science and math, we effectively tested our hypothesis in a college lab where we experimented with the optimal conditions for maximizing ethanol levels produced by the lake weed through fermentation, and in gathering and analyzing data. We leveraged technology for outreach through the design and creation of our Lake Weed Game and website, as well as in the creation and publication of our book. Finally, we used engineering practices as we worked to build the distillery, and in the coding of our game. As we worked through these problems, we learned that through STEM we could fuel a change for today to help our tomorrow.

9th Grade National Finalist Teams:

Community Led - Naperville North Parent Team | Lisle, Illinois
Team Members: Sruthi Kotlo, Divya Lidder, Anjana Ramachandran
Team Advisor: Ramu Ramachandran
Team Summary:
In our community, especially in schools, depression is a major health issue that is often glossed over. A shocking number of adolescents and adults under-represent their symptoms and remain undiagnosed and untreated due to financial difficulties, social stigma and ease of access. Additionally, our research shows that disruptions like the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic lead to surges in mental health problems associated with isolation and unemployment. To help address this urgent need, we explored the correlation of vocal features and depression and found that phonic patterns can be indicative of a disorder like depression. We extracted vocal characteristics from various voice samples, and turned to machine learning strategies for analysis. Non-human, machine learning-based interfaces could reduce or eliminate some of the financial or socio-economic barriers to early detection. Our solution includes both a python-based machine learning program and a statistical model which analyzes extracted acoustic data from voice samples and attempts to classify each voice as depressed or non-depressed. We saw a 75% accuracy rate in detection. Our program, therefore, can be improved and realistically developed into a functioning and readily available smart phone app. Our program presents the potential promise of a cost-effective and early diagnosis of depression and can provide a crucial first step in acquiring treatment to improve a patient’s life. Our program, which we hope to implement into an app through our Stem-in-Action Grant, could be a promising tool for our friends, our veterans and others in society facing mental health challenges and looking for the first step towards recovery and wellness.
*STEM-In-Action Grant Recipient

The Golden Spice
Palm Tree School | Fairfax, Virginia
Team MembersTewfik Kurban, Zohal Stanikzai, Jannah Radwan, Amina Khan
Team Advisor: Loubna Elhelu
Team Summary:
There is a clinical need for the development of novel therapeutic interventions for the treatment and prevention of Schistosomiasis. Schistosomiasis remains prevalent among parasitic diseases of public health importance globally, with more than 779 million people at risk of schistosomiasis infection, and more than 240 million people are currently infected (WHO, 2015). Biomphalaria glabrata, the intermediate host to S. mansoni, is a major participant in the life of this flatworm parasite. Susceptibility of the intermediate host snail to S.mansoni infection is affected by elevated temperatures. In the face of global warming, the ability to reduce schistosomiasis might prove to be challenging. Currently, there’s only one drug used to treat this disease. New drugs are needed to break the complex life cycle of the parasite to prevent reinfection in treated areas. Curcumin is an antioxidant, with reported anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory activity. It has been shown to decrease mitochondrial dysfunction, stabilize the cell membrane, restore proliferation, and reduce injury severity in spinal cord injury, cancer, and cardiovascular disease (Rocha-Ferreira, 2019). Here, we treated NMRI snails with curcumin before exposing them to heat-shock at 32°C for 2 hours. We tested for Hsp 70 protein expression to determine the effects of this compound on snail susceptibility to S. mansoni. Heat shock proteins (Hsps) function to protect the cell during stressful conditions such as heat, infection, or trauma. We hypothesized that curcumin would decrease the expression of Hsp 70 in heat-shocked snails, making them more resistant to parasite infection.

The Braynz Guardians
Taos Tyger Lab | Taos, New Mexico
Team MembersRiver Fox, Kailey Kelly, Daniel Pacheco
Team Advisor: Laura Tenorio
Team Summary
Impacts from head and neck injuries can last far into the future, and can lead to neurodegenerative disease, and other illnesses that can result in early death. Some sports don’t have head protection, though the head plays a vital part in the sport, like soccer. The focus of this project is two-fold: first, the helmet design will be tested for stop impact and inertia impact, along with the design of a multi-function helmet that protects head and neck. Second, different materials will be tested with the designs to determine impact resistance. First a helmet was designed that met the criteria of: protects frontal portion of skull, protects brain stem and side portions of head, protects neck area and does not obstruct movement or line of sight. The designs for most effective helmets and the new design were programmed into a 3D printer at 10% of scale; large enough to handle an egg. The samples were printed using Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), Polylactic Acid (PLA) and Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) filament, then tested via a height drop with an egg strapped in and determining break strength in a hydraulic press. The new design with both cranial and cervical protection was more efficient than the standard football helmet, hockey helmet, and motorcycle helmet designs, and was particularly effective in both inertia and standard protection printed in TPE.

Bob Jones High School | Madison, Alabama
Team Members: Joshua Chen, Ashwin Prabhakar, Alexander Stern, Matthew Stern
Team Advisor: Balabhaskar Prabhakarpandian
Team Summary:
Human activities in the past decades have led to air, water, and land pollution. In the wastes sent to landfills, paper is the largest contributor with more than 26 million tons of waste. Among these, a specialized scientific paper called pH paper accounts for more than a million pounds of waste. In addition, decomposition of these papers leads to the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas further impacting the global climate. In this study, we developed a pH sensor using hydrogels and pH indicators extracted from natural resources. An automated process was developed to make a hydrogel based pH sensor, and an imaging based methodology was developed for pH measurement using color spectrum analysis. An Arduino based sensor was finally integrated for display of results. The developed imaging process and Arduino sensors were able to demonstrate successful measurement of pH for different samples. This developed simple to use method and biodegradable formulation system of a natural pH sensor has great potential for (a) replacing pH paper usage in routine use all around the globe, (b) reducing the landfill of paper-based pH sensors, and (c) reducing the global footprint of greenhouse gases as less paper will be decomposed. Working together with local communities, this biodegradable pH sensor will provide a new era for design and development of natural components based methods and systems benefiting individuals, communities, and businesses while driving global changes towards a sustainable future for our planet.

Paradise Valley High School | Phoenix, Arizona
Team Members: Nathan Neugebauer, Cooper Weisman, Colin Snyder
Team Advisor: Michelle Cannon
Team Summary
Teenagers and people in general have a hard time getting up in the morning. There are people who wish to stay in bed and sleep rather than get up to go to work or school. The purpose of this project was to help people wake up and get out of bed easier. Coloopate Crew and Co. did research to see how we could help people get out of bed and we found that heat could be a possible method. We wanted to solve this problem by using an electric blanket on a time regulated system. We also tested to see if the blanket would up and the proper time that we wanted it to. We tried heating up the blanket 30 times to see if it worked. We plugged in the blanket and set the timer to our preferred time and waited for the blanket to heat up at that specific time. Then, we decided to test this on ourselves to see if it could wake us up and get us out of bed. We tried the blanket on all three of ourselves using the same method as before when we heated up the blanket multiple times.The blanket could possibly help people get out of bed with further research.

*STEM-In-Action Grant Recipient


Wondering about the STEM-In-Action grant? Each year, regional finalist teams are invited to apply for the STEM-In-Action grant for funds to implement their eCYBERMISSION project solutions in their community. These awards are independent of the selection of eCYBERMISSION national finalists.This year, though normally awarded to five teams, AEOP STEM-In-Action Grants will be awarded to ten teams selected by judges based on the evaluation of the teams' proposed plans. Each of the ten selected teams will receive an award of up to $5,000 and will be invited to the National Judging & Educational Event in June. Evaluation of STEM-In-Action awards will remain separate from the teams' overall project scores. The grants will be awarded across all grades to the teams whose implementation plans prove that their projects provide the greatest possible impact within their communities. A team does not have to be a national finalist team for this grant opportunity. It is open to any regional finalist team.

In addition to our National Finalist teams above that are recipients of this award, here are the other STEM-In-Action grant recipient teams...

6th Grade SIAG Teams:

No Vape Possible
Granger Middle School | Aurora, Illinois

Team Members: Samil Sharma, Nidhi Sagaram, Viraj Vyas
Team Advisor: Bhavna Sharma
Team Summary:
Every day in the News and Media, we see a lot being said about vaping – injuries, deaths, and new and changed laws. We also observed that vaping was a hush-hush topic amongst students in our community – our school. In order to protect our friends, we came up with a hypothesis, problem statement, dependent and independent variables, and followed the scientific methodology to research this topic. Vapes contain harmful toxic chemicals that cause lung and heart diseases. It is particularly detrimental to brain development amongst children because of the high nicotine level. We used technology to engineer our surveys and presentations to educate our community on the ill effects of vaping and educated them to say no to vaping. We used Google forms to administer the surveys and Google slides to make the presentation. In the first survey, we designed questions to gauge the understanding of vaping amongst students. The second survey focused on what they learned and the choice they would make. Our conclusion suggests that our project was successful. Our presentation helped tremendously in trending down the choice students would make of vaping. We were able to conclude this by mathematically studying the survey data in tables, graphs, and charts. Our next plan is to talk to other schools, Boys Scouts, county health departments, and rehab centers. We have understood that peer influence is a strong influence and we want to make a positive impact. We hope that this idea passes on, and the world becomes a healthier place!

7th Grade SIAG Teams:

Liberty Middle School | West Fargo, ND
Team Members: Emma Briggs, Sullivan Ihry, Kaitlyn Hoefs, Alexa Killoran
Team Advisor: Holly Erickson
Team Summary

Team CO2 is comprised of four seventh graders from Liberty Middle School in West Fargo, North Dakota. As STEM in Action Grant recipients, we plan to finish phase one of our research on removing phosphate from agricultural runoff by creating a bio-char iron nanoparticle water filtration system. Team CO2 took on this challenge since North Dakota is one of the nation's leading agricultural producers. When farming, fertilizer is used in fields to increase farming yields. This leads to increased amounts of phosphorus in agricultural runoff, which in return impacts our numerous water-based ecosystems. These impacts are caused by excess nutrients in water ecosystems leading to higher mortality rates for our wildlife, more algae blooms, and an increased amount of greenhouse gasses being released into our environment. This group of Liberty 7th graders will partner with not only lead researchers at North Dakota State University, but business professionals at the Emerging Prairie’s Grant Farm. Our goal is to have our water filtration systems placed in fields across our state to test their effectiveness, and hopefully help contribute to a solution for this problem. 

8th Grade SIAG Teams:

Providence Day School | Charlotte, North Carolina 
Team Members: Jodie Yan, Katherine Liu, Morgan Boonshaft, Pavan Thakkar
Team Advisor: Mark Bartholet
Team Summary

Plastic extracted from bodies of water, such as oceans, lakes, and rivers, are often covered in filth. Most recycling plants do not take the plastic as it is harder to recycle. They earn more money from clean plastic than dirty plastic. We felt that dirty plastic seemed like a relatively small bump on the road towards a more sustainable future, so we sought a solution to this problem that was not expensive, easily implemented, and environmentally friendly. To do this, we did research and tested different combinations of cheap household items with dirty plastic bottles to see which would work the best to clean them. What we found was a mixture of vinegar and baking soda was extremely effective. Since they are both naturally sourced, they will not harm the environment. Our idea is to place the dirty plastic in a shredder that will then feed the shredded, cut plastic into a container filled with the mixture of vinegar and baking soda. Though this would be far from solving climate change and other major environmental issues, on a larger scale this solution could make a dent in the amount of plastic that is thrown away compared with the amount that is recycled.

9th Grade SIAG Teams:

Fight the Fomites
Miami Beach Senior High School | Miami Beach, Florida
Team Members: Noah Cohen, Harrison Delisle, Leonardo Oliveira
Team Advisor: Carol Karp
Team Summary:

Our project aimed to identify the prevalence and diversity of the microbiome on the Miami Metrorail and possible organisms which might pose a health risk to passengers. We wanted to ensure the safety of the 18 million members of our community who use this yearly. We tested common touch surfaces at three Metrorail stations and passenger train cars. The surfaces tested included escalator and stair handrails, elevator buttons, ticket dispensers, benches, seatbacks, grab poles, hand straps, seats, and train floors. Three trials of each item were performed. Each swabbed item was grown on thioglycolate broth and plated on blood, chocolate, and MacConkey agar plates. After incubation, the bacteria were counted and identified. Individual speciation was performed using an Analytical profile index (API, Biomérieux, France). We found high levels of virulent bacteria in all tested Miami Metrorail stations and passenger train cars. Most levels were over 100,000 colony forming units/milliliter (CFU/ml), considered dangerous levels. Almost all touch surfaces tested had hazardous gram-negative organisms which were gut bacteria, like Escherichia Coli, Kulyvera and Enterobacter species. Even the gram-positive bacteria that we found were unhealthy ones, such as Enterococcus, which is also from feces and can make people sick. We found methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Klebsiella pneumonia, Pseudomonas, and fungi, all organisms that can make people ill. Passengers should be aware of the possible pathogenic bacterial exposure while riding the Miami Metrorail. Our community should be alerted to these dangers and practice careful hand hygiene before and after using the Miami Metrorail. 


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