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Competition asks Big Isle students to ‘pitch’ solutions to plastic pollution

Local students will have the chance next year to create solutions to some of the Big Island’s biggest problems during NexTech Hawaii’s Fish Tank competition.

Fish Tank, NexTech’s first STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) competition, is patterned after the reality show “Shark Tank,” and kicks off in January.

Noel Morin, program manager for the competition, said the competition will allow students in grade 6-12 to focus on a local problem. This year, they will focus solutions to plastic pollution.

Students will work in teams of 2-4, along with a mentor who will guide them through research, problem solving, testing, documentation and presentation.

Morin said the students will also have access to subject matter experts — participating individuals from Hawaii County — and during the course of two months will work to arrive at a solution.

Young people will “look at the problem through different lenses” than adults would, he said. “We are hoping to see some innovative ideas come as a result of this competition.”

Like the reality show, students will “pitch” their solution before a panel of judges in April.

According to Morin, winners will be selected based on the quality of work and the presentation done on the competition day.

Fish Tank also is working with a local engineering group that will provide resources to assist with the competition process and contribute to judging the event.

According to Morin, plastic pollution was selected as the challenge because it’s “fairly urgent” and “in the news constantly,” and after meeting with county leaders it was learned that 60 tons of plastic go into landfills daily.

It is something the community would be hyper-aware about and not only offer students a challenging problem to solve, but one that is a relevant issue for the island, he said.

Although this is the inaugural competition, Morin said a good turn out is expected.

“The format we hope will be successful in terms of stimulating interest in the community and, more importantly, getting the youth involved in STEM-related (fields),” he said.

It is free to enter and the deadline to do so is Sunday, Dec. 15.

Prizes will also be awarded.

For more information or to register, visit nextechhawaii.org/fishtank/.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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