For those who wonder exactly how much water they use on any given day — there’s an app for that.

It was created by a group of mostly middle-school-aged students who are driven by a love of problem-solving and a keen sense of what it means to change the world. In just three years, the group, which calls itself the “Bionic Porcupines III” in First Lego League circles, has won two major awards and created two revolutionary systems to solve major problems. On Feb. 10 the third iteration of the Bionic Porcupines won the 2018 Northern Utah State First Lego League Championship at Weber State for their teamwork and innovative ideas. The Porcupines’ next stop is the First Lego League World Championship in Houston, Texas, in April.

“They are a really talented group,” says their coach Mark Snaufer, who is a parent to team member Eric Snaufer. “All of them, whatever they want to be when they grow up, they are going to be it. They have huge potential.”

The core of the Bionic Porcupines team formed almost three years ago, when Eric Snaufer, and Carter Lechtenberg were fifth-graders at Sunrise Elementary. Noporcupines.jpgw they are in the seventh grade with Eric Snaufer attending Midvale Middle and Lechtenberg enrolled at Butler Middle. Their original teammate Katie Drennan is now in the tenth grade at Alta High, while three other teammates, Allie Drennan, Kassie Holt and Timothy Holt attend the Beehive Science and Technology Academy, a charter school.

The first year the Bionic Porcupines joined First Lego League, they devised a plan to recycle glass at Sunrise Elementary. The second year, the team upped the ante, looking to Utah’s international airport in Salt Lake City for a problem to solve. They created a bionic “scarecrow” out of a battery-powered, portable device with a flapping air tube to scare away birds from the airport’s runways.

The invention earned the group the prestigious President’s Environmental Youth Award from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to Mark Snaufer, the airport still uses three of the devices to divert migratory birds away from harmful paths.

This year, the group tackled water conservation. “The project is wild to work through,” Mark Snaufer says.

The group began doing preliminary research last summer, visiting the EPA in Denver, Colo. to research issues, then touring Deer Creek reservoir, and talking to Sandy City officials and other water professionals. Each student came up with 10 ideas on how they could solve problems with water consumption, until finally the group decided the best approach was to create an app they call “Water Bank.”

The app uses smart meters installed by Sandy City to monitor how much water a home is using. Data is uploaded to a third-party site once an hour, and the app allows users to examine their own data, but with a fun twist. First, if users decrease their water usage, they can donate the savings on their water bill to a list of charities designated by Sandy City. Second, the app allows homeowners to create simulations to see how a smart sprinkler or other water-wise techniques will affect their water consumption. The app allows users to make a commitment to reduce water usage, and it tracks their progress.

“I’m just amazed at the creativity of the group,” Mark Snaufer says. “It’s exciting to see them have that free-thinking capability and experience.”

The coach, who is a rocket motor engineer for Orbital ATK, estimates his students have invested at least 1,500 hours on their project since August, and they have more to do to prepare for the world championship — including raising the funds to get there. The team established a Go Fund Me page to help with the money, but they’ll be meeting three times a week for hours at a time to finish everything else.

As challenging as the Bionic Porcupines’ project sounds, Snaufer says the one area the students have learned the most is how to speak in front of a crowd.

“This will sound funny, but I think it benefitted them the most for public speaking and for organizing tasks,” he says. “Some of them were a little bit hesitant to speak in public when we started out, but they have all gained a great deal of confidence in speaking in front of people. … That was a huge thing for the team to understand different people communicate differently.”
Two students at Midvale Middle are part of a group that has received the regional President’s Environmental Youth Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Trojans Abigail Slama-Catron and and Eric Snaufer, along with two others from the Beehive Science and Technology Academy, earned the prestigious award for their "Bionic Scarecrow" device, which was created with the aim of keeping birds away from nesting in the wetlands around the Salt Lake International Airport. 

Last Thursday, Acting Deputy Regional Administrator Suzanne Bohan visited the middle school to present the award to Midvale Middle's Slama-Catron and Snaufer and Timothy Holt and Allison Drennan, who previously attended Sunrise Elementary and now attend Beehive Academy. The group of sixth-graders also demonstrated the award-winning project and answered questions from other students about their research and methods.

Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe also attended the award presentation and congratulated the students on their ingenuity and dedication.

“These student winners are exemplary leaders, committed to strong environmental stewardship and problem solving,” EPA Acting Deputy Regional Administrator Suzanne Bohan said. “Environmental education cultivates our next generation of leaders by teaching them to apply creativity and innovation to the environmental challenges we face as a nation. I have no doubt that students like these will someday solve some of our most complex and important issues.”

The Environmental Youth Award recognizes outstanding environmental education and stewardship projects from sixth- through 12th-grade students. Students from all 50 states and U.S. territories submit life-changing innovative projects to the EPA for consideration.

The region includes Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Abigail also produced a winning Canyons District Film Festival film on the project.

See the students' appearance on ABC4 "Good Morning Utah" during which they talked about the proejct.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert was among the dignitaries who attended an open house and ribbon-cutting for RizePoint, a software company that is re-locating to the Canyons District community.

At the Wednesday, March 23 event at the firm’s new beachhead, 2890 E. Cottonwood Parkway, the District received 10 $500 scholarships to be used on STEM-related activities. Herbert presented the scholarships to Board of Education members Nancy Tingey and Amber Shill during the festivities.

"While academic achievement is our main focus, the Canyons Board of Education is also dedicated to maintaining relationships with the business sector. Only by working together can we build up world-class schools that will prepare students for the demands of the 21st century global marketplace," said Sherril H. Taylor, president of the Canyons Board of Education.

"We welcome the support that RizePoint brings to our community and express appreciation for the company's generosity in helping our students excel in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics."

RizePoint software is used by five of the top eight hospitality brands, including Marriott, Intercontinental, Hilton, and Wyndham, and five of the top eight food-service brands, including McDonald's, Starbucks, Wendy's, and Pizza Hut.
When more than 400 hundred business and marketing teachers meet this summer for a statewide conference, one of the first things they will see is Brady Hartog’s colorful handiwork.

The artwork on the cover of the conference program is a crisp and snappy design that was created by the Hillcrest High freshman, who won the chance to have his work featured. 

Teacher Ed Mondragon encouraged Hartog to enter the Utah State Office of Education-sponsored cover-design contest, which was Hartog’s first-ever entry to such a competition.

Mondragon praised his student for blending his computer-science skills with his creative side. “He’s artistic — and he does programming, too,” Mondragon said of Hartog, who also is a member of the school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter. “He’s someone who can help our FBLA program for several years.” 

Laura DeShazo, the business and marketing specialist from the USOE, recently visited Hillcrest to announce Brady as the winner of the competition.

In addition to the publication of his work on the conference covers, Hartog also received an Adobe Creative Suite software license.

For his part, Hartog says it’s “great to get my work seen by so many people.”

What’s clear, however, is that the sky is the limit for the well-spoken ninth-grader. While he “can’t deny the possibility” of becoming a professional graphic designer, he says he also “could be an engineer. Or maybe the President of the United States.”

Who will win the Canyons District Science Fair? Help us decide!

Volunteer science fair judges are being sought to evaluate hundreds of entries in the Science Fairs for Canyons District elementary and secondary students.  

Judging for the elementary fair will be 4-7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 9 in the Professional Development Center of the Canyons Support Services Center, 9361 S. 300 East. A training meeting for judges will be 3:30-4 p.m.

The secondary fair also will be in the Professional Development Center of the Canyons Support Services Center. Judging will be 4-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 10. The judges’ training meeting will be 3:30-4 p.m.

Interested? You can fill out an online registration form and volunteer application on our website.

All volunteers must pass a criminal background check in accordance with state law.

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