June 21, 2024
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RKYHS STEM Students Take Home First Prize for Innovative Product in Prestigious CIJE Competition

RKYHS congratulated their first place team in the national “CIJE Tank” competition. The team of RKYHS 11th graders, Rebecca Arian, Sophia Eisenberg and Mari Kaufman, took home first prize for their innovative Biowrap, an environmentally friendly replacement for plastic for use in water bottles, agriculture and for medical purposes. Their Biowrap product was prototyped last year in their RKYHS Scientific Engineering course, part of the four year RKYHS STEM sequence. They continued to work on and fine-tune the product in the RKYHS science lab throughout this year.

“The idea originated from a week-long theoretical project in our tenth grade STEM class. We were tasked with finding a solution to the multilayer packaging crisis in India and ended up coming up with our invention as the answer to this pressing problem. At the end of the assignment, we decided to actually try and manufacture the first version of Biowrap, turning into a long-term project that we worked on both in and out of class. At first, our sole idea was a simple membrane to encapsulate water, but as time went on, we expanded our focus to a range of fields,” commented Rebecca Arian.

“Although working during the pandemic was difficult, we worked—and continue to work—around it so we don’t lose any useful time to improve on our product. During quarantine, we did continuous research on the uses and chemical compositions of our invention, performed at-home experimentation, and met over Zoom. Not having the ability to work in the lab freely, as we were able to before the pandemic, did have some negative effects on our research, but it wasn’t an obstacle that we couldn’t overcome,” added Mari Kaufman.

Four finalists were chosen for the CIJE Tank competition out of over 60 submissions. CIJE Tank, sponsored by CIJE, the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education, is a competition that promotes product development and entrepreneurship. The four teams went head-to-head, presenting to high profile “sharks,” or expert judges. The RKYHS team was knowledgeable and poised as they expertly engaged in back-and-forth dialogue with the impressed judges. As the winning team, they earned a provisional patent for their product, sponsored by Nathan Renov from Pearl Cohen.

The RKYHS STEM department operates by the mantra of “learn science by doing science” as students go through all of the classes in the RKYHS STEM sequence with a hands-on approach. The STEM Sequence is a challenging four-year progression of courses (Introduction to Computer Science and Engineering in 9th Grade, Scientific Engineering in 10th grade, Genetic Engineering in 11th grade, and Biomedical Engineering in 12th grade, and includes an expanded full four year Computer Science sequence of courses. “As high school juniors, they are thinking big and solving real problems with solutions that can have real world impact,” commented Dr Steve Stein, Science Department Chair. “The fact that they didn’t stop at just “thinking” about the problem but actualized their solution, really shows off the depth and essence of our “learning science by doing science” approach. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.”

“Working with Rebecca, Sophia and Mari on Biowrap was a pleasure from the first moment they had the idea. They consistently took their passion for an idea that would help protect the earth and applied hard work and teamwork to see their idea through to success,” commented Ms Abbey Roth, RKYHS faculty member at STEM advisor.

“Through the whole process, our STEM teachers, Dr. Steve Stein and Ms. Abbey Roth, were there to support us. With their encouragement, creativity, and advice, we were able to develop our product and win first place in a regional competition, Pitch NJ, before going on to win first place in CIJE. We are so grateful,” commented Arian.

“The overall experience not only allowed us to advocate for the environment and cultivate our STEM skills, but it also taught us how to present professionally, answer challenging questions, and learn how the industry works. CIJE is an incredible organization and I think Mari, Rebecca, and I are all equally excited for the provisional patent it granted us, which will allow our idea to transform into reality,” added Sophia Eisenberg.

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