W.G. Mallett School second graders, from left, Lucinda Perry, Ronnie Yau and Clair Kiger, display their “Spider Plant CO2 Collector” that won them first place in the 30th annual Toshiba Exploravision national science program for the Northeast region. The Farmington students will advance to the national competition under the direction of instructor Sue Boyce-Cormier, who stands behind them. Photo courtesy of W.G. Mallett School

FARMINGTON — Three second-graders at W.G. Mallett School have won first place in the 30th annual Toshiba Exploravision science program’s Northeast regional competition with their “Spider Plant CO2 Collector.”

Ronnie Yau, Lucy Perry and Claire Kiger will move to the national competition representing the kindergarten through third grade division.

Their invention utilizes spider plants to absorb carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles.

The science program, facilitated by Toshiba, challenges students to “engage in real-world problem-solving with a strong emphasis on (science, technology, engineering and mathematics),” and to “envision and communicate new technology 10 or more years in the future through collaborative brainstorming and research of current science and technology.”

The trio invented the Spider Plant CO2 Collector with the help of instructor Sue Boyce-Cormier.

Boyce-Cormier said they thought outside the box in addressing climate change. The topic of climate change and greenhouse gases was Yau’s idea, she said.


After narrowing the issue to cars and exhaust, the team began looking for “technology that doesn’t exist,” Boyce-Cormier said. They discovered the spider plant is a species that can remove carbon monoxide and dioxide from the air.

Their vision was a spider plant inside a glass jar that goes on a car’s muffler to absorb the exhaust. They created the prototype, wrote a report and created mock webpages to sell the product.

The team was also charged with uncovering why this kind of technology doesn’t exist and what barriers it faces. The students discovered the invention would need glass that “doesn’t break when you back (a car) up and hit something,” Boyce-Cormier said.

Boyce-Cormier said she was excited to tell the three they won the regional title.

“It was the highlight of my life getting to tell them,” she said.

Boyce-Cormier has been facilitating projects in the Exploravision contest for 15 years; this is the first time she’s seen a team get this far.


“It’s so rewarding, especially with little ones because they just don’t get the accolades that older kids get,” she said. “And I also want to really instill upon them that trying really hard and working at something academic is worthwhile.”

Yau, Perry and Kiger each won a Chromebook computer “to support the development of virtual posters, website and videos for the national phase of the competition,” according to a release from Toshiba.

They will compete for the national title and a chance to win a $10,000 savings bond for each of them. Toshiba will announce the winners May 6.

W.G. Mallett School is also home to another team that won an honorable mention for its “Hive Tracker” focusing on bees.

Boyce-Cormier said she appreciates all her teams for their ability to think creatively and freely.

It has nothing to do with how innovative a project is, she said. “It has to do with the fact that little kids are free to think.

“Oftentimes, we squelch (children’s creativity), don’t we? So this gives them a chance to really think outside the box … And I think that they’re going to get a lot out of just knowing that they did really well on something that they worked really hard on,” Boyce-Cormier said.

She’s also proud to bring the win to the Regional School Unit 9 community and highlight “the importance of the gifted and talented program (that) gives kids who are supercreative a chance to express themselves in a positive manner.”

“It’s a pretty big deal for Farmington, Maine,” she said.

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