CUMMING — A team of four freshmen from Forsyth Central High School was one of 20 selected by the U.S. Army as a national finalist in the 14th annual eCYBERMISSION competition.
FCHS1, comprised of Alex Yates, Miyang Tamanji, Danielle Byrne and Samuel Dong, are participating in the web-based science, technology, engineering and math program designed to “cultivate student interest in STEM by encouraging students in grades 6-9 to develop solutions to real-world problems in their local communities.”
The four students are all part of the STEM Academy at the school on Tribble Gap Road.
They were selected from a group of 60 regional finalists by a panel of judges who are Army STEM professionals.
“These outstanding students recognized challenges that exist in their local communities and explored ways to solve them,” said David Evans, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, which administers the competition.
Teams gave a live, four-minute presentation on their project before an in-depth question-and-answer session.
FCHS1’s project focused on the effects of different fertilizers on the health of lakes and streams, said Laurie Karickhoff, a science teacher at Central and the team’s adviser.
“They did the measuring based on dissolved oxygen levels and the pH of the water and the health of the snails they tested,” Karickhoff said. “Technically I’m their team adviser, but I’ve done nothing other than fill out paperwork and keep them moving along in the judging process. All of the work and the ideas, the presentation, has all been theirs.”
The team started the project in December after brainstorming for topics with a biology teacher at the school.
Regional judges looked at how well teams effectively identified problems in their community using STEM to propose a solution.
As a regional finalist team, the students won $2,000 each in U.S. Series EE Savings Bonds.
As a national finalist team, the students will receive an additional $2,000 in bonds and an all-expenses paid trip to compete for the first-place national award in their grade at the NJ&EE, a weeklong event at the end of June that provides educational opportunities and team-building exercises.
Karickhoff said they have the opportunity to win an additional $5,000 each if they win nationals.
This year’s national event features a live-streamed national showcase and awards luncheon, tour of Washington D.C., and a STEM Challenge with demonstrations and hands-on activities.
“They are very excited, and I think surprised, at the positive feedback they’ve gotten,” Karickhoff said. “And they don’t want to just go to Washington and think this is the end. They want to win.”