Queen of Peace students place in national science competition

Queen of Peace students Audrey Wiegal (4th grade), Esau Segura (4th grade), Jonathan Barra (3rd grade) and Claire Stout (4th grade) were selected as a regional winner in the the 30th annual ExploraVision challenge, a national science competition (Courtesy/Queen of Peace)

Four students at Queen of Peace Catholic School have earned national honors for their plan to break down harmful plastics in soil.

The team of elementary school students Jonathan Barra, Esau Segura, Claire Stout and Audrey Wiegal, with coach Maureen Foelkl, were the regional winner in the 2022 ExploraVision challenge, a national science competition that challenges students to come up with solutions to world problems.

The group’s invention, called Fungi Plastivore Purifier, detects polyurethane plastic in soil using a pulsing laser, according to a news release from the school. The device can hover over soil and is solar-powered. When it detects polyurethane, the device releases hemp capsules full of a fungus, Pestalotiopsis microspora, which can digest and break down the plastic into organic matter.

The invention “cleans and purifies our soil, leading to healthier food and water ecosystems while preventing serious illnesses in an environmentally safe way,” the news release said.

The team was one of six in the U.S. honored in their age division, for students in grades 4-6. A total of 23 teams were regional winners.

Those winners now advance to a national competition, with the winning team receiving a U.S. savings bond worth $10,000 at maturity. Second place teams will receive a $5,000 savings bond.

-Rachel Alexander