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Wheatland Students Receive National Recognition for STEAM Design Challenge

Wheatland Students Receive National Recognition for STEAM Design Challenge

A team from Wheatland Center school recently received recognition in a national STEAM design challenge. Students from Wheatland’s personalized learning academy, PATHS, participated in the Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge and received 2nd Place. Team members receiving recognition were Jaini Beck, Mason Biehn, Safyire Guthrie, Gavin Heriford, and Ronan Bacle. Students were awarded $750 to be spent on future school projects, and a 2nd place national finish.

All Wheatland 7th and 8th grade students participated in the Environmental Science curriculum and content for this challenge. Mrs. Zirbel, Mrs. DaSilva (student teacher), and Mrs. Horton helped students discover and learn about Biomimicry and climate change issues using the NGSS Science standards and practices. Both teams continued to finish the project through distance learning due to the COVID-19 school closure. Students who continued their projects for submission did so with the guidance of their Wheatland teachers. 

Wheatland’s other team that competed in the challenge during the school closure was made up of Jessica Roynon and Beth Nicolette. They submitted a project entitled  “Operation Collect Clean Water” in which they used a new type of solar panel using biomimicry from a fogstand beetle.  They were trying to solve drought issues for people in Pakistan.

“This was an authentic, real-world project that engaged students in all aspects of STEAM and integrated all areas of the curriculum. Students used the Project Management Cycle and developed skills that go beyond typical classroom instruction. I am proud of the teamwork, perseverance, and grit all students demonstrated throughout this project while working from home,” said Mrs. Horton.

For the third year the Biomimicry Institute has been working with educators to bring the process of nature-inspired design into their classrooms and after-school programs through our Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge (YDC). In this project-based learning program, middle and high school students collaborate in teams to solve sustainability problems, with nature as their guide. This year, the Institute reached approximately 6,000 students across the United States with the YDC curriculum, and despite the disruption schools faced moving to digital learning mid-semester, 60 educator-nominated projects were submitted to this year's competition!

Wheatland’s team, Reef Guard, created a concept for protecting coral reefs from UV radiation and rising ocean temperatures that cause coral bleaching. This team created a floating underwater shade structure inspired by giant lily pads and the UV-reflecting properties of Orb Weaver spiders’ webs. The team was commended by the judges for their strong engineering design process and testing and refinement of key components of the design (Wheatland’s Project Design).

“The problem choice from the Reef Guardians was excellent. Bleaching of coral reefs is an incredibly important issue to address. I actually learned how the bleaching process works from their research and had not realized the algae connection. Their research is commendable, and the engineering they applied and the testing they did was very impressive.”  Scott Randall, Informal STEM Education Strategist, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Reef Guardians

Top Left to Right: Jaini Beck, Ronan Bacle, Gavin HerifordBottom Left to Right: Safyire Guthrie, Mason Biehn, Mrs. Horton

3D printer

Ronan Bacle iterates different designs for the Reef Guard on the 3D Printer

Beck working on project

Jaini Beck testing the Reef Guard model for buoyancy and effectiveness for decreasing temperatures

OCCW Team