Submitted by San Juan Island School District
Fostering a scientific competitive spirit is well underway at Friday Harbor Elementary School! Three elementary school STEM Teams have received recognition for their work at the national level through ExploraVision, sponsored by the National Science Teaching Association and the Toshiba Company.
These three elementary school teams started projects in September 2019, working before and after school, on weekends and in STEM class with teacher Susan Kareken and mentors Dena Royal and Ayla Ridwan until mid-February. Submissions consisted of a research paper and five webpages on paper.
According to the competition’s website, “The ExploraVision competition for K-12 students engages the next generation in real-world problem solving with a strong emphasis on STEM. ExploraVision challenges students to envision and communicate new technology 20 years in the future through collaborative brainstorming and research of current science and technology.”
The FHES Regional winners were Jodie Wehner (second grade), Ava Youngsman (second grade), and Nancy Wehner (first grade). Their project was titled PhageAway and they worked under their coach/teacher Susan Kareken and mentor Dena Royal. The Phageaway project is a nine state K-3 Regional winner and will compete for the national championship.
Honorable Mention was awarded to the top 5-10 percent of projects nationwide. There were only 33 Honorable Mentions for K-3 out of 1,000+ K-3 projects, and Friday Harbor teams accounts for two of them.
One of the FHES Honorable Mention Teams consisted of Theron Holden (third grade) and Orion Marcy (third grade) with their project titled DC Pods. Their coach/teacher was Susan Kareken and mentor Dena Royal.
The other Honorable Mention Team consisted of Azalea Ross (third grade), Jessie Valencia (third grade), Nadya Troutman (third grade), and Kaylee Staudt (third grade) with their project titled Odrone. Their coach/teacher was Susan Kareken and their mentor was Friday Harbor High School Junior Ayla Ridwan.
The regional winning team who produced PhageAway will now build an actual website and (nonoperational) prototype of their PhageAway mini-submarine to submit in mid-April.
Out of six regional winners, the top two regional projects will win the national competition. Each student on those winning teams will receive a $10,000 savings bond (1st place) and a $5,000 savings bond for 2nd place along with an expense-paid trip to Washington, DC in June for ExploraVision Awards Weekend. Honorable Mention teams win a unique prize and certificate for each student.
“I am in awe of these student scientists as well as their coach and mentors! Special thanks go to Ayla Ridwan who, as a high school junior with her own busy life, took the time to help these youngsters succeed. This is a great accomplishment, and Friday Harbor Elementary School is very proud of them!” Caspar van Haalen, Friday Harbor Elementary School Principal, said.