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Stillwater Middle School Shines Light on Bird Migration and Light Pollution

In the heart of Stillwater, Minnesota, a group of passionate sixth-grade students from Stillwater Middle School is making waves in the field of environmental conservation. Their project, focused on bird migration and light pollution, has not only captured the attention of their community but has also earned them a spot as finalists in the prestigious Solve For Tomorrow competition by Samsung.

Stillwater Middle School students

VOTE FOR THEIR PROJECT until April 23rd, 2024 >

Bird migration is a natural phenomenon that sees billions of birds traveling across continents each year. However, what many may not realize is the impact of light pollution on this intricate process. Over 80% of birds migrate at night, using the stars as their navigation guide. Yet, artificial lights can disorient them, leading to exhaustion, collisions with structures, and a decreased chance of survival.

The students of Stillwater Middle School embarked on a journey to tackle this issue head-on. Collaborating with local experts, including bird specialists, city officials, and engineers, they delved into understanding the dynamics of bird migration and the effects of light pollution on their community.

Stillwater, nestled along the Saint Croix River, serves as a vital flyway zone for over 250 bird species. Recognizing the importance of their town in this migratory route, the students set out to assess the impact of light pollution in their area. Armed with data bots and upcycled cardboard tubes for crowdsourcing star data, they meticulously observed the night sky, noting the visibility of stars at different times of the evening.

Their findings echoed their concerns: light pollution was indeed affecting the visibility of stars, potentially disrupting bird migration patterns. But rather than stopping at observation, these young innovators decided to take action.

With creativity and determination, the students designed their own solution: bird-friendly lights that not only combat light pollution but also blend seamlessly into their environment. Drawing inspiration from Minnesota's natural beauty, they crafted prototypes of downward-facing flower lights, ensuring minimal light emission into the night sky.

Their design process was as educational as it was innovative. Experimenting with sustainable energy sources and repurposed materials, the students honed their engineering skills while staying true to their commitment to environmental stewardship. After several iterations, they settled on a bioluminescent bulb, harnessing the natural light emitted by living organisms like bacteria and algae.

The result? A beautiful, functional light fixture that not only illuminates pathways but also protects the nocturnal habits of birds. Equipped with sensors that adjust the light intensity based on daylight and darkness, these bioluminescent flower lights represent a harmonious blend of technology and nature.

But the journey doesn't end there. The students are now taking their project to the national stage, traveling to Washington, D.C., to pitch their idea in the Solve For Tomorrow competition. Additionally, they're rallying their community for support through the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Community Choice voting, with the chance to win an additional $10,000 prize package for their school.

Their message is clear: every day needs night, and by minimizing light pollution, we can ensure that birds continue to soar through our skies unhindered. Through their dedication and ingenuity, the students of Stillwater Middle School are not just illuminating pathways but also paving the way for a brighter, more sustainable future.

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