A group of ten grade 8 and 9 students from St. Thomas Aquinas CHS in Russell, Ontario, known as the AVENGERS (A Very Energetic Nerdy Group of Environmentally Responsible Students), have been working hard on an innovative environmental project.
Alongside teacher coaches Ann Jackson, Blair Fitzsimons, and Brad Reid, YAY-BALE was created in response to the First Lego League (FLL) annual competition, which challenges students to develop solutions to real-world problems. This year’s challenge was called “Trash Trek,” whereby students had to develop a solution to a problem involving trash.
After speaking with local farmers and travelling to Lafleche Recycling Facility, the AVENGERS learned that plastic hay bale wrap and bunker plastic is a huge environmental problem. Rather than trying to find different ways to recycle the oil based plastic, students decided to look at ways that plastic could be made from starch, rather than fossil fuels. Through consultation with many different organizations about the issue, the group has developed an alternate product, along with a business model of how the product could be brought into production.
“We wanted to make sure our product stood up to the environmental elements. We had to create a business model, and create a pitch for our product,” explained team member Noah Hill.
After presenting the biodegradable plastic with their business plan at the FLL Global Innovation Awards in Toronto on February 27, the students qualified as semi-finalists for the 2016 Trash Trek international finals held in Washington, in June.
“God helped us through the very stressful times, and thanks to Him, we were able to realize our dream of attending the Global challenge,” noted team member Rachel Fiset.
At the global challenge, the group was one of the top 20 teams of 30,000 that applied to enter the competition.
Not only has the project received notable media attention, but they have also had the opportunity to present their project to the Honorable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Agricultural Attaches at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, and CBC Dragon’s Den mentor capitalist and consultant Sean Wise.
“Our responsibility to be stewards of God’s earth has been a pivotal inspiration to this project,” explained teacher Ann Jackson. “I was so inspired by the team work these students demonstrated in the countless hours that they put into their project. Their collaboration, support, and respect for each other was a shining example of what can be accomplished when people work together and look for the best qualities in each other.”
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