Students at Christa McAuliffe School 28 in Jersey City had already been dismissed for the day when their teacher, Malissa Yabut, came chasing after them on Jan. 9.
“Guys we won!” Yabut said, instantly putting a smile on the faces of 10 students.
Yabut couldn’t wait to share the news with the eighth graders — they won the first part of the Lexus Eco Challenge, a national competition that addresses environmental issues on a local level.
The students, who are part of the school’s Project Reservoir, had been working hard since August.
The Heights school is now set to receive a $20,000 grant after two Project Reservoir teams, Super Tilapia Algae Xterminators (S.T.A.X.) and Algae Extinguishers, won the first part of the Lexus Eco Challenge.
The two teams were the Eastern region finalists for the competition’s “Land and Water” challenge, winning $10,000 each. The teams will now compete in the $30,000 grand prize challenge among the 32 finalists.
“They were so excited because they all worked so hard, were up late at night doing tons of research,” said Yabut, one of the three academic coaches alongside science teachers Robert O’Donnell and Joel Naatus. “It’s good for them to see that their hard work pays off in academics.”
Project Reservoir is an after-school program at School 28 that engages students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) projects, specifically on finding ways to preserve Reservoir No. 3. This year’s teams focused on preventing a massive die-off of aquatic life by improving fish health and removing algae in a safe manner.
“We want them to see the world outside of Jersey City,” Yabut said. “We want them to see there’s STEM opportunities for them outside of what is just here. We want them see that there are great opportunities that they can do besides what they see on TV.”
This is the third year in a row that a team from the school has been a finalist in the competition.
The 10 students will receive $1,400 each, while Yabut will receive $1,000 for each team and reallocate the money to Project Reservoir. The school will retain the remaining $4,000 and use it for STEM-related activities, according to Principal Janet Elder.
The Algae Extinguishers, who include students Adriana Zapet, Amberrain Andrews, Gisselle Cabrera, Kevin Gajraj and Kimberly Toledo, came up with a way to safely rid the reservoir of algae without using chemicals that can harm aquatic life.
Their project has focused on putting the micro bacteria inside a floating solar-powered containment filtration system that cleanses the water, according to Yabut.
S.T.A.X., made up of students Laila Durrani, Miguel Peralta, Nataly Oaxaca, Amani Mustafa and Patrick Sacta, devised a plan to use tilapia to eliminate forms of algae that have proven to be harmful to fish in freshwater bodies of water. The team has conducted experiments to train tilapia to eat algae and duck weed as babies.
STAX created a chinampa, or a floating garden, that keeps the tilapia from escaping into the water with the native fish.
View original article at: Jersey City School 28 students win $20,000 for ‘Project Reservoir’ in Eco Challenge