Keira Stroh of Kenai Central High School (KCHS) made her place in history as the 25th 1st Place winner of the Caring for the Kenai environmental competition. Keira, the younger sister of two time CFK finalist Courtney Stroh said her sister’s success motivated her to create the Scannin’ Salmon App, “I knew it would take a lot of effort because Courtney had a great idea, really worked hard and never actually took 1st place so that motivated me to do better and work even harder and I’m so happy to have won,” said Keira. Her smartphone app idea with the ability to identify salmon species by simply taking their picture and matching it to an online data base won her top CFK honors and a $1,600 cash prize.
The CFK essay prompt challenges high school students to respond to the question “What Can I do, invent or create to better care for the environment of the Kenai Peninsula or improve the area’s preparedness for a natural disaster?” Taking second place and earning $1,100 was Daniel Wiest of Homer high school who created a Volcano Eruption preparedness kit. “The road to development is always rough but I plan to take my idea to the fullest level of implementation so when the next eruption occurs we’ll be better prepared,” he said.
In third place and claiming a $900 prize was Shania Johnson of Cook Inlet Academy who is creating a “Bear Aware” app for smartphones to report and learn of recent bear sightings in public areas. “It will help prevent bear encounters and DLP killings of bears by knowing where they are and how to avoid them,” she said. Taking fourth place honors and $750 was Kasey Paxton of KCHS who developed a filtration system for skimming oil sheen from storm drains and road run offs. Coming in 5th and winning $650 from Ninilchik was Jacob Roberts with his creative rain gutter garden project. Winning $550 and in 6th place was Lisa Krol of KCHS who engineered an emergency electronic charging device for cell phones.
In addition to the $8,000 in cash awards for the finalists this year $25,000 will be awarded to the science departments of schools that participated this year thanks to the CFK signature sponsor Tesoro Alaska and the community partners Kenai River Raven Lodge, Hilcorp Energy, Kenai River Sportfishing Assoc., ConocoPhillips and ASRC Energy Services. High schools using CFK as part of state standards curriculum were: Ninilchik, Nikiski, KCHS, Soldotna, Seward, Homer, Voznesenka and Cook Inlet Academy. Each school receives $750 for their participation and the remainder of the $25,000 will be allocated proportionately to how the students placed in the CFK competition. Additionally, 20 some students received special recognition awards from local businesses and individuals. “I had heard about this program and was excited about being a judge tonight, but the quality of the work these students put out is amazing and far exceeded anything I had expected,” said Cameron Hunt, Tesoro Nikiski refinery manager who moved to Alaska from Hawaii last fall.
Other finalists that earned $400 each for making it to the final 12 out of 400 some entries were: Leah Johnson of KCHS with her Horse Trail Maintenance Club. Madison Akers of Homer had a great plan for battling invasive plant species. Kelina Polushkin and Ustina Chernishoff from Voznesenka high school are spreading the word about the polluting effects of copper in brakes and where to find alternatives. Matthew Bartolowits of Ninilchik wants to replace studded tires with walnut composition tires that have better traction and don’t harm asphalt. The team of Maddy Carey and Bre DeLon from CIA want to create a “Minuteman” data base to connect high school students with organizations that need volunteers to do community service. And Robert McGinnis of Ninilchik plans to build a mobile recycling trailer to take to large community events this summer to make recycling easier.
In addition to cash awards the finalists received the 25th Anniversary hooded jacket. Saturday, April 25th finalists and guests will attend the CFK V.I.P Awards banquet hosted in their honor by Tesoro at the new Fireweed Fellowship hall in Soldotna. All of the more than 400 participants that entered CFK this year with their ideas will receive a camo knit mountain hat. This year’s oral presentation judges included Paul Ostrander, Chief of Staff for Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, KPBSD Supt. Sean Dusek, Cameron Hunt, Tesoro plant manager, Melanie Hollon, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Health officer, Matt Connor, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge visitor services manager, Denise Newbould, of the environmental consulting firm ERM Alaska, Dr. Paula Martin, Assistant Director Kenai Peninsula College and last year’s 2nd Place CFK winner Krysten Maxson. Caring for the Kenai is administered as part of the Kenai Watershed Forum’s education program.