Middle schoolers win big in STEM contest

DePaolo  seventh graders placed first in the state STEM contest with their app, left, called “Southington Says No!” The app  is designed  to give  information for those  battling addiction.

DePaolo seventh graders placed first in the state STEM contest with their app called “Southington Says No!” The app is designed to give information for those battling addiction.


Three teams of Southington students took their ideas online last month, competing in the eCYBERMISSION—a web based science fair sponsored by the U.S. Army.

This year, students from Kennedy and DePaolo middle schools took home three top awards at the state level, for tackling issues of pollution, road safety, and substance abuse.

In it’s 14th year, the eCYBERMISSION is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) competition that challenges students to identify a problem in their community, and use online tools to develop a solution. The contest, administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), is free for students. The U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program distributes $9,000 in U.S. EE Savings Bonds to winners each year.

Divided into teams of three, both schools took home first prize for their age group, with all first place students earning a $1,000 savings bond. Kennedy’s two teams were led by sixth grade science teacher Katherine Soltys, and Depaolo students were advised by seventh grade science teacher Donna Shea.

In an April 29 press release, NSTA President Dr. Carolyn Hayes thanked advisors “for investing time in their students to help make a real difference in the world around them.”

Placing first in the state’s sixth grade competition were “The Amazing Einsteins” from Kennedy. Samantha Kania, Brooke Sobolewski, and Olivia Benson, created a water filtration system for town drainage pipes in an attempt to decrease pollution to the Quinnipiac River.

“We learned how much pollution is really effecting the Earth,” said Benson, “and if we want to, we can change that.”

Kania said that their solution was inspiring. “Young minds can solve the problem of pollution if we work hard enough,” she said.

DePaolo’s seventh grade team of Alina Rivera, Katie Clynes, and Sammi Bray captured first place in their division. Shea said that what started as a Project Based Learning (PBL) project in her science class, turned into a community effort to help those with substance abuse issues.

The students, working together with a sixth grade class created an account on Instagram for community outreach, and then they developed an app called “Southington Says No.”

Their app features an explanation of substance abuse issues and information from professionals that were interviewed by the students. The app also provides links to appropriate town organizations for help with addiction.

Clynes and Bray said they learned about teamwork, leadership, and technology by competing in the contest.

“I am proud that we successfully created an app to help those with substance abuse issues” said Clynes.

The students plan to continue using this app to offer information and resources to Southington residents.

“I hope we can contribute more to the community in the future” said Rivera.

Benjamin Nagle, Anthony Sena, and Gavin Michaud from Kennedy placed second in the sixth grade competition. The students designed a model for safer roads during rain. The model was designed to drain precipitation and reduce accidents. Each student on this team earned a $500 savings bond for this project.

“The U.S. Army is very proud of the students that have accepted the challenge to this STEM competition in efforts to improve their communities,” said Louie R. Lopez, Cooperative Agreement Manager for the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Center in the press release.

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