Civic & Education Awesomeness in Jersey City: PS #5’s “Air Fresheners”

I’m taking my kids out of school early tomorrow so they can go into NYC and witness some stellar role models in action.   These role models are Inventors.  Technologists.  Scientists. Civic Pioneers.  They are the Air Fresheners of PS #5, and tomorrowps5 logo they will be finalist presenters at the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest.

The Air Fresheners are Ivonne, Nancy, Lailany, Sidney, and Gianna, eighth graders at PS #5.  And four facts underscore just how impressive their accomplishments to date have been:

(1) The competition began in September with over 4,100 teams nationwide competing.  PS #5 is now one of 15 “State Winner” finalists, competing with teams from Oregon, California, New York, Florida, and others.  This places them in the top 0.04% of the contest competition.

(2) PS #5 is a middle school, yet eight of the other finalists are high schools, including nearby Brooklyn Technical High School.  The Air Fresheners are among the youngest Samsung Solve finalists.

(3) The PS #5 team has already won $40,000 from Samsung. Half of this award money is for their project, and half will be directed towards technology investment at PS#5. They stand to win $120,000 more if they are named a Top-5 “Nation Winner.”  (more on that below…)

(4)  Their efforts have included coordination and collaboration with city and school officials…which means they are not just inventors, technologists, scientists…they are also serving as civic problem solvers.

Let’s get civic and review what they’ve done…and find out how we, the community, can now help.

The Contest Challenge

Samsung challenged students across the nation to “show how STEM can be applied to help your local community.”  STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. The PS #5 Air Fresheners’ video submission explains their work, some of which I’ve summarized below.

To quote the Air Fresheners’ video, “Jersey City’s full of cars, all around, and is constantly under construction. After noticing the amount of carbon emissions in the area, we came to a realization that we had to reduce the amount of carbon in our school community.”

I-78 View from PS 5
PS #5 is located adjacent to the NJ Turnpike.

To help define the problem, the team conducted research.

First, they using lichen specimens from trees and buildings to determine air quality around the school.  Lichen, the students explained, “adapt to anything, making it noticeable when your air quality changes.”

Next they created their own HEPA filters using 100% recyclable materials and placed them on fans to test out the materials. HEPA filters must meet higher standards than regular filters.  They used store-bought HEPA filters as control variables.  The girls explain in the video that they “wanted these materials to be fairly inexpensive to schools and administrators so they can create them themselves.”

HEPA Prototypes
Students create their own HEPA filters using 100% recyclable materials.

With their materials tested and vetted, the team then built prototype filters for classroom windows.  Once the filters were in place in the windows, the team tested the air quality around the school using cups lined with vaseline, which caught the black bits hanging in the air after passing through the filters.

The Air Fresheners’ Findings:

The team determined that the 3rd Street side of the school, indoors and outdoors, had the worst air quality.

Their Suggested Solution:

PS5 Window Filters
Placing the prototype HEPA filters into the windows at PS#5

In addition to creating the new filters (to keep the dirty bits of air out of school), the team worked with JCPS personnel to reduce vehicle idling on 3rd Street, creating “No Idling Drop-off Days” on December 2, 2015 and February 9, 2016.

What’s Next?

The students are working to bring more awareness to air quality issues around their school, including petitioning drivers outside of their school to turn off the engines instead of idling.

Students raising awareness for PS #5’s Air Fresheners.

Also, the Air Fresheners will present at Samsung Solve for Tomorrow’s “Final Pitch Event” on Tuesday, March 15th in New York City.  Five winners will be selected:

PS5 Triangle(1) three winners will be selected via a judge’s panel at the Final Pitch Event

(2) one winner will be selected by Samsung employees

(3) one winner will be selected via public voting on Instagram and Twitter. Voting ends on March 31st. The public can vote for PS #5’s project on Twitter or Instagram using hashtags #SamsungSolvePS5 and #SamsungSolve.  Only one vote per day, per person. The goal is to get maximum voters each day until March 31st.

Let’s Rally for PS #5!

Our community can help spread the word about the public voting campaign, and share the good news about the Air Fresheners at PS #5.

To date, there have been 26,233 votes cast for 15 teams.  The top-vote-getting team is from California, currently with about 4,600 votes.  PS #5 is tied for 5th place with about 1800 votes.  This means: if everyone in Jersey City with a Twitter and/or Instagram account posts *original* messages (no Retweets) each day from today until March 31st, we could help these kids win the public voting portion of the contest.

Air Fresheners VotesThese kids are working to tackle a real issue in our community – dirty air caused by traffic and construction – so let’s show our support by voting for them on Twitter and Instagram…but remember: ORIGINAL tweets only…NO RETWEETS.  And one post per day, per person.

#SamsungSolve #SamsungSolvePS5:  All hands on deck, Jersey City!

Learn more here:

Follow the Air Fresheners on Twitter
Follow the PS #5 PTA on Twitter
Watch Air Fresheners on NJ TV News
From – 5 NJ Girls are Finalists in $2M National Science Contest

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