Caring for the Kenai competition

“Caring for the Kenai is a great program that supports our efforts to have students apply their classroom learning in problem solving activities,” said Sean Dusek, superintendent. “This program is truly cross curricular and allows students to be creative and collaborate with their peers, teachers and the community. I appreciate the efforts of our teachers to integrate this program into their classes and am thankful that people like Merrill Sikorski have kept this opportunity alive for our students.”

Keira Stroh of Kenai Central High School (KCHS) made her place in history as the 25th first place winner of the Caring for the Kenai (CFK) environmental competition. Keira, the younger sister of two time CFK finalist Courtney Stroh said her sister’s success motivated her to create the Scannin’ Salmon App, “I knew it would take a lot of effort because Courtney had a great idea, really worked hard and never actually took first place so that motivated me to do better and work even harder and I’m so happy to have won,” said Keira. Her smartphone app idea with the ability to identify salmon species by simply taking their picture and matching it to an online data base won her top CFK honors and a $1,600 cash prize.

The CFK essay prompt challenges high school students to respond to the question “What Can I do, invent or create to better care for the environment of the Kenai Peninsula or improve the area’s preparedness for a natural disaster?” Taking second place and earning $1,100 was Daniel Wiest of Homer High School who created a Volcano Eruption preparedness kit. “The road to development is always rough but I plan to take my idea to the fullest level of implementation so when the next eruption occurs we’ll be better prepared,” he said.

In third place and claiming a $900 prize was Shania Johnson of Cook Inlet Academy who is creating a “Bear Aware” app for smartphones to report and learn of recent bear sightings in public areas. “It will help prevent bear encounters and DLP killings of bears by knowing where they are and how to avoid them,” she said.

Taking fourth place honors and $750 was Kasey Paxton of KCHS who developed a filtration system for skimming oil sheen from storm drains and road run offs. Coming in fifth and winning $650 from Ninilchik School was Jacob Roberts with his creative rain gutter garden project. Winning $550 and in sixth place was Lisa Krol, also a student at KCHS, who engineered an emergency electronic charging device for cell phones.

In addition to the $8,000 in cash awards for the finalists, this year $25,000 will be awarded to the science departments of our schools that participated this year thanks to the CFK signature sponsor Tesoro Alaska and the community partners Kenai River Raven Lodge, Hilcorp Energy, Kenai River Sportfishing Association, ConocoPhillips, and ASRC Energy Services. High schools using CFK as part of state standards curriculum were: Ninilchik, Nikiski, KCHS, Soldotna, Seward, Homer, Voznesenka and Cook Inlet Academy. Each school receives $750 for their participation and the remainder of the $25,000 was allocated proportionately to how the students placed in the CFK competition. Additionally, more than twenty students received special recognition awards from local businesses and individuals.

Other finalists that earned $400 each for making it to the final twelve out of 400 entries were:

  • Leah Johnson of KCHS with her Horse Trail Maintenance Club
  • Madison Akers of Homer had a great plan for battling invasive plant species
  • Kelina Polushkin and Ustina Chernishoff from Voznesenka high school are spreading the word about the polluting effects of copper in brakes and where to find alternatives
  • Matthew Bartolowits of Ninilchik wants to replace studded tires with walnut composition tires that have better traction and don’t harm asphalt
  • The team of Maddy Carey and Bre DeLon from CIA want to create a “Minuteman” data base to connect high school students with organizations that need volunteers to do community service
  • Robert McGinnis of Ninilchik plans to build a mobile recycling trailer to take to large community events this summer to make recycling easier

In addition to cash awards the finalists received the 25th Anniversary hooded jacket. On Saturday, April 25, 2015, finalists and guests attended the CFK V.I.P Awards banquet hosted in their honor by Tesoro at the new Fireweed Fellowship hall in Soldotna. All of the more than 400 participants that entered CFK this year with their ideas received a camo knit mountain hat.

This year’s oral presentation judges included Paul Ostrander, Chief of Staff for Borough Mayor Mike Navarre; KPBSD Superintendent Sean Dusek; Cameron Hunt, Tesoro plant manager; Melanie Hollon, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Health officer; Matt Connor, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge visitor services manager; Denise Newbould, of the environmental consulting firm ERM Alaska; Dr. Paula Martin, Assistant Director Kenai Peninsula College; and last year’s second place CFK winner, Krysten Maxson.

Thank you to all the students, educators, sponsors, judges, and volunteers to help create such a good collaborative community partnership that is positive for everyone who participates.

Caring for the Kenai website
Caring for the Kenai Facebook

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