Stamp sand research project wins national competition

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Lake Linden High School ninth-graders Siona Beaudoin, Beau Hakala and Gabe Poirier pose Thursday with their first-place trophy from the national eCYBERMISSION competition. They won in June for their project on which plants grow best in stamp sands.

LAKE LINDEN — Fresh off winning a nationwide competition, the three Lake Linden High School ninth-graders on Lake Linden’s eCYBERMISSION team are making another run.

Siona Beaudoin, Beau Hakala and Gabe Poirier won first place in June at the national competition, sponsored by the U.S. Army. Their project measured the types of plants that grow best in stamp sands to combat erosion.

The team planted four plants — red fescue, red clover, treefoil and alfalfa — in mixtures with five percentages of stamp sand – 0, 25, 50, 75 and 100. Of those, fescue and alfalfa fared the best in full stamp sand.

At the national competition in June, the team gave a four-minute presentation to five judges. After the presentation, the judges toured the teams in groups of two, two and one and questioned the teams in 10-minute sessions. Those questions covered topics like how the experiment would benefit the community, what they could have done better and how they conducted the experiment.

“What ‘stamp sand’ was was a question that came up a lot,” Hakala said.

Being questioned by the judges was nerve-wracking, all three said, but, Hakala said, “it was a good experience in D.C.”

On the final day of the trip, the winners were announced at a luncheon. The team was surprised by the win.

“We didn’t get up for a few seconds,” Poirier said.

While in Washington, the team visited the National Mall and met with U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, as well as doing a virtual presentation broadcast on the national Science and Teachers Association website.

The team was advised by Lake Linden teacher Nick Squires; Gretchen Hein, a senior lecturer at Michigan Technological University; and Ryan Knoll, a chemical engineering student at Tech.

In the months leading up to the trip, the team made presentations to the Lake Linden School Board, the Lake Linden Village Council, professors at Michigan Technological University, Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman.

For the next year, the team will do another experiment related to stamp sand. Because of rules regarding how much research can be carried over to the next year, it probably won’t involve growing plants, Beaudoin said.

“We were competing with a bunch of big private schools, so I guess even though we come from a small area with a really small school, we can still do big stuff,” she said.