Taking Home the Top: Our 2021 National Winners

Exactly one week ago today, we wrapped up our 19th Annual National Judging and Educational Event (NJ&EE) and, boy, was it a week to remember. Our second year in a row going virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic, we made sure to make the most of these students' experience. A week of U.S. Department of Defense workshops, getting to know AEOP alumni and getting to work with their peers and fellow national finalists, we finally hit the week's culmination at the National Awards Ceremony to see who would take home the prestigious top prizes. One team from each great was awarded this honor of receiving $10,000 in U.S. E.E. Savings Bonds by the U.S. Army and we are pleased to announce them to you today...

6th Grade National Winners

Cedar Busters

Team Members: Jett Hurst, Tori Hay, Justus Jacobus, Sawyer Means

Team Advisor: Laura Stary

Southcrest Christian Academy in Lubbock, Texas

According to the EPA, salt cedar is the most damaging invasive species in the western U.S., causing widespread adverse effects on the environment. Salt cedar halts native vegetation and trees absorb 200 gallons of water per day, harming the riparian system. In this region of agriculture, and during extreme drought, water is as valuable as gold, and the conservation of this resource is not just critical, but essential. Working with the Fish and Wildlife Service, its recommendation was to eradicate salt cedar along waterways, but it is very difficult to remove. Five investigations compared the effectiveness of chemical and mechanical eradication methods to enable our team to recommend ways to remove the species. An Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) was conducted after salt cedar had been chemically and mechanically grubbed from McDonald Creek. The salinity, conductivity, turbidity, pH, water temperature, and dissolved oxygen levels were monitored. These indicators concluded that mechanical eradication was more effective in keeping stream water healthy. Chemical eradication was effective but required additional applications to remove 100% of the trees. A short half-life of the chemical meant aquatic organisms were unharmed. Water flow increased in the creek, benefiting endangered species in the Brazos River downstream, and the return of native vegetation. Repurposing the mountains of downed salt cedar through environmental engineering followed. Working with pest control and construction companies, our tests showed salt cedar was termite-resistant, with unique potential as building materials. Salt cedar was then used as mulch and plants thrived, while insects were repelled.

Congratulations, Cedar Busters!

7th Grade National Winners

The CQuestrators

Team Members: Varsha Gunda, Veda Murthy

Team Advisor: Sharmila Murthy

Rachel Carson Middle School in Herndon, Virginia

The CQuestrators identified the problem of the increase in carbon emissions in their community due to urbanization, burning of fossil fuels, and cutting down trees. This impacts the team's community with rising sea levels and an increase in health issues in addition to the global impact. They conducted extensive research on different ways to mitigate this problem, as well as a two-pronged approach of increasing awareness and increasing local carbon sinks to reduce carbon emissions in their community. Using the scientific inquiry method, they created their solution - Carbon Sink Pellets. To increase awareness of the problem, they shared the carbon sink pellets with neighbors, who were thrilled to use their solution in their lawns to make an impact on the carbon footprint! The team's next step is to take their carbon sink pellets and implement it at a county-wide level. The team is excited to receive the Stem-In-Action grant which will help in making their solution a reality.

Congratulations, CQuestrators!

8th Grade National Winners

Team Stumptown

Team Members: Shreyas Ananth, Kapil Kakodkar, Rishab Madhusudhan, Tejaswani Datla

Team AdvisorAnanth Sankaranarayanan

Community Group: RoboRink in Portland, Oregon

According to the arthritis Foundation, more than 54 million adults and almost 300,000 children have arthritis or another type of rheumatic disease, the leading cause of disability among adults in the US, costing nearly $200B annually in physiotherapy and medication. Based on the research conducted by Team Stumptown, physical activity and physical therapy can reduce pain and improve physical function by about 40 percent. Existing solutions require patients to visit physiotherapists multiple times weekly and is cost prohibitive. The team asked themselves, ”how can we cost-effectively and reliably offer a virtual physiotherapy experience for people with arthritis?”, and have built a Virtual PhysioTherapist solution that allows people with arthritis to exercise virtually anytime in the comfort of their own homes without excessive premiums or recurring expenses.

Congratulations, Team Stumptown!

9th Grade National Winners

Pantry Patrol

Team Members: Siddharth Maruvada, Abhinav Meduri, Arnav Meduri

Team AdvisorSubbarao Meduri

Enloe Magnet High School in Raleigh, North Carolina

Food insecurity continues to be a problem in many parts of the world. The issue has become even more rampant during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite food insecurity issues, food waste is a major problem in the United States. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, approximately 30-40% of food produced in the United States is wasted each year. Reducing food losses by merely 15% would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans each year. Food banks, food pantries, and other community initiatives are actively combating the issue of food insecurity. Food banks are the front line of the fight against food insecurity, but they generally do not have any visibility into food waste that is happening at their affiliate food pantries. Food pantries would operate more efficiently if they had comprehensive food waste data which they could put to good use. Food pantries would then be able to distribute food more efficiently and avoid food waste through the utilization of dietary and allergy information when packing boxes for clients.Team Pantry Patrol presents a unique solution to combat the issues of food waste and food insecurity by creating an intuitive and easy-to-use application primarily focused on helping food pantries track, monitor, and eliminate food waste. The application, fittingly called Pantry Patrol, also consists of a wide array of pantry management features that assist food pantries in their day-to-day operations.

Congratulations, Pantry Patrol!

Congratulations to these teams and all your hard work - IT PAID OFF! We are so excited to see the journey that our national winners, and national finalists, will move onto in the future. STEM is something anyone, anywhere can be a part of, and we hope that you will also join the mission. 

To find out more about registration for our upcoming competition year, head to www.ecybermission.com today!

-Mission Control

Colleen Minan
AEOP Communications & Marketing Specialist


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