Seventh-grader Isaac Alvis, eighth-grader Elisabeth Howell, seventh-grader Reid Kinney and seventh-grader Danielle Ohwovoriole hold up their certificates at the conclusion of the Toshiba/National Science Teaching Association ExploraVision Regional Awards virtual ceremony April 7 at Patton Junior High School. The team was named regional winner of the large science competition and now advances to the national level of competition. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Charlotte Richter/ Staff Writer

A team of Patton Junior High School students — seventh-graders Isaac Alvis, Reid Kinney, Danielle Ohwovoriole, and eighth-grader Elisabeth Howell — have been named the regional winner in the sixth- to eighth-grade category of the Toshiba ExploraVision competition. The students were recognized April 7 in a virtual ceremony.

The K-12 competition has had more than 450,000 students in the U.S. and Canada participate since its beginning 30 years ago. According to the website, “ExploraVision challenges students to envision and communicate new technology 10 or more years in the future through collaborative brainstorming and research of current science and technology.”

Kinney said the team first sought a method to provide freshwater around the globe. The concept led the team to recognize the amount of pollution entering the ocean and other water sources.

Alvis said the team agreed they wanted to prevent pollution at its source.

Seventh-grader Isaac Alvis, eighth-grader Elisabeth Howell, seventh-grader Reid Kinney, Gifted Education Facilitator Heather Yates and seventh-grader Danielle Ohwovoriole gather in front of a laptop for the Toshiba/National Science Teaching Association ExploraVision Regional Awards virtual ceremony April 7 at Patton Junior High School. The team was named regional winner of the large science competition and now advances to the national level of competition. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Howell said #TeamSeas, a fundraiser started by content creators on YouTube who work to remove trash from the ocean, further inspired the team members, and they created their team name and mission: CTRL-ER — Collect, Transport and Reduce Litter while Energizing and Recycling.

During the virtual recognition ceremony, Howell explained the problem and each function of the invention.

“Currently, third world countries are experiencing a lack of available options to dispose of waste. A lot of people are throwing their waste into rivers or the oceans. It’s no longer a suitable option. The waste is clogging up rivers, contributing to the ocean garbage patches and washing up on shorelines across the globe. Our technology … helps prevent those problems,” Howell said. “We are incorporating the aspects of composting, the growing fields of artificial intelligence technology, and driverless functions, and future enzyme technologies within our CTRL-ER that helps to manage waste.

“The CTRL-ER will sort waste into separate compartments based on the makeup of the material,” she continued. “One compartment will compact and transport recyclable materials, another compartment will compost them, and another compartment will use plastics and break it down into energy that will be utilized by the whole vehicle. The CTRL-ER would be almost completely independent from human help and provide resources to surrounding the communities while also cleaning up the community.”

Seventh-grader Isaac Alvis, eighth-grader Elisabeth Howell, seventh-grader Reid Kinney, Gifted Education Facilitator Heather Yates and seventh-grader Danielle Ohwovoriole gather in front of a laptop for the Toshiba/National Science Teaching Association ExploraVision Regional Awards virtual ceremony April 7 at Patton Junior High School. The team was named regional winner of the large science competition and now advances to the national level of competition. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

The team said they followed guidance from Patton Gifted Education Facilitator Heather Yates and their mentor, Dr. Gina Lewin, a postdoctoral fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The students said Lewin introduced them to the function of enzymes in their project and helped them develop enzyme technology in their project.

“That was one of the major things, because the other stuff — the composting, the AI technology, driverless functions — those are being developed right now. Even though there’s a little bit (of emerging technology on) enzymes, most of the future of being able to break down the plastics efficiently and quickly, that’s new technology, so (we) still have to learn a lot about enzymes right now,” Howell said.

Ohwovoriole said the team played to the members’ strengths when developing the CTRL-ER and submitting the project, using skills from other parts of their curriculum such as researching, video production, website development and software like Autodesk Tinkercad.

Each student received a Chromebook and a certificate recognizing the team as a regional winner. The team will advance to the national level of the competition with the opportunity to visit Washington D.C., win up to a $10,000 U.S. Series EE Savings Bond (at maturity) and receive ceremony recognition.

Yates said another team from Patton consisting of Mackenna Dempsey, Kira Pendleton and Terry Mathy also received an honorable mention during the competition, recognizing them among the top 10 percent of participants this year.

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