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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jun. 23, 2021 1 year ago

Windermere Prep students win national science competition

The team earned a first-place finish in EarthEcho International’s EchoChallenge.
by: Guest Writer
Hailey Holbdy, Windermere Prep

By Hailey Holbdy, Windermere Prep

Being an influential science seems like a mere pipe dream to many of us. 

However, that is not the case for three Windermere Prep students. 

As Brandon Doggett, Margarita Guzman, Sofia Marrero, and teacher/mentor Ashley Hollern bask in their well-deserved win in the national science competition EchoChallenge, they have proven they are scientists.

Team Algae Biofiltration is the claim to fame. 

EarthEcho International, a global environmental nonprofit organization, recognized these hard-working students for “creating a Biofiltration device that grows good algae to outcompete the bad algae,” says team member Sofia. 

The team created a contraption to fight the increasing problem of harmful algae blooms. 

The creation of a natural way to grow healthy, “good” algae to outgrow and out-compete the harmful algae blooms is a huge accomplishment, because it addresses an issue that has been tearing through ecosystems across the globe. Throughout the process of bringing awareness about the issue, the students decided to continue their research with their $5,000 prize from their win, and, as Sofia says, show people “they can solve a problem if they put their mind to it.” 

The team began work on its submission in October 2020 and continued research throughout the school year. The students worked during class, free periods, after school and on their own. Team members say they are excited to continue their research with one another but say they will also be reaching out to other schools across the country to compare data and extend research and measurements. 

The team tells us that there were many factors involved in their success. From social-media marketing to late nights and to having an experienced mentor such as their teacher Mrs. Hollern, the group worked hard to put this project together in just a few months for the competition. 

The team completed, revised and reviewed the project together — and also utilized one another’s individual strengths. The students all have their own personal strengths, and throughout the project, they played to them and divided the project into smaller sections. The students say they looked back at their work moments before they won and realized that, win or lose, they created an amazing project and were going to be proud because of all they had accomplished already. 

They had a two-fold approach of research and awareness work in tandem to propel change, Hollern said of the students, adding that they created a project worthy of first place.

She also said they are all thankful to have had help from experts and outsiders such as Dr. West Bishop, of Sepro Corporation, and Tim Rumage, a planetary ethicist and professor at Ringling College of Art and Design. They also extend thanks to Philippe Cousteau Jr., grandson of famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, and the founder of EarthEcho International for the experience and ability to share and continue their research. 

These four individuals have come together to solve a global issue and be rather successful through their solution. Sofia said during the final event of the competition, they were on the fence about if they could have really won it or not. However, as the time to reveal the winner came closer, she said she started to feel in her gut that they were going to walk away as victors. 

“When they announced the first-place winner, I was in shock,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe that all of our hard work paid off and that we were given a huge grant to continue our research even further.” 

The future of science is in good hands, and your community could not be more proud of your commitment and dedication. Continue to inspire and follow your passions. It seems to work out when you do!


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