MAA Students Earn Second Place in STEM Week Challenge

Mount Alvernia Academy students earned second place in the STEM Week Challenge with activities, problems, and projects developed by Project Lead The Way and supported by Mass STEM Hub. The challenge was designed to involve students in the use of STEM to solve real-world environmental problems. The theme of this year’s challenge was Zero Waste. A group of three sixth-graders designed a water vehicle to collect plastic pollution and submitted its project to a panel of judges. The group came in second in the grades six through eight online plastic waste category. An estimated 60,000 students and 1,600 educators from over 400 schools total across Massachusetts participated in the challenge. MAA was the only Catholic school to win an award. 


After investigating types, sources, and uses of plastics, the students learned about how plastic is accumulating in the environment. The students were challenged with creating a motorized vehicle that would clean plastic waste from a water environment. The “Extractinators,” as they were called, had to be made from recycled material. The students worked in groups to design, build, test, and revise their models.

“I was not only proud of the creative ideas and the intense focus on perfecting their Extractinators, but I was also pleased with how the students collaborated on their ideas and cooperated in the making of their models,” said MAA science teacher, Mrs. Maria Lyons. 


MAA’s students have the chance to conduct many hands-on experiments throughout the year and were excited to put their skills to the test for the STEM Week Challenge. “I really like facing a problem and having to solve it in creative ways,” said one MAA sixth-grader. Another sixth-grader was excited to tackle this issue because she wants to be part of the solution to global pollution: “It is important that we, as sixth-graders, are part of this project because this is going to be our problem to solve when we grow up and we need to start finding ways to clean our oceans if they are going to be healthy,” she said earnestly. 


Their project was reviewed by a panel of judges including civil engineers, manufacturing professionals, data scientists, and technology professionals. The judges provided thoughtful and inspiring feedback to our students that will help them further improve their award-winning design. These professionals noted their model for its power, its front scooper shape, and were particularly impressed with how they waterproofed the battery by making a plastic casing out of a water bottle. They also commended their report for its creativity and its attention to detail. It was a great team effort!


This is not the first time MAA’s students have shown their passion and potential in STEM. Last spring, MAA’s STEM Fun Fair received an award from Massachusetts’s Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs and was named the Massachusetts Elementary School of the Year by the National Energy Education Department (NEED) Project. We are so proud of Mrs. Lyons and all of her students who participated in the STEM Week Challenge and look forward to seeing what the future holds for our budding scientists. Read more about the challenge and see a full list of winners on the STEM Week Challenge website.

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