From left, Lucinda Perry, Ronnie Yau and Clair Kiger, second graders at W.G. Mallett School, have won a regional title in the 30th annual Toshiba Exploravision National Science Competition for their “Spider Plant CO2 Collector” invention, pictured. With the help of instructor Sue Boyce-Cormier, pictured, the trio invented a mechanism to absorb fuel exhaust from automobiles with spider plants. The team are now in the running for the national title, to be announced May 6. Photo courtesy of W.G. Mallett School

FARMINGTON — Three second graders at W.G. Mallett School have won the regional title in the 30th annual Toshiba Exploravision Science Fair Competition for their “Spider Plant CO2 Collector” invention.

The trio – Ronnie Yau, Lucy Perry, and Claire Kiger – are now in the running to win the kindergarten through third grade national title.

Their submission is an invention that utilizes spider plants to absorb carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles.

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

Yau, Perry and Kiger invented the Spider Plant CO2 Collector with the help of instructor Sue Boyce-Cormier.

Boyce-Cormier said the group of second graders thought out of the box with the idea to address climate change in their project. The topic of climate change and greenhouse gases was Yau’s idea, she said.


“[Yau] sold the [topic] to everybody,” Boyce-Cormier said.

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

Their vision was a spider plant inside of a glass jar that goes on a car’s muffler to absorb the exhaust.

They created the prototype, wrote up a report and created mock web-pages to sell the product.

The team was also charged with uncovering why this kind of technology doesn’t yet exist, what barriers it faces.

In this situation, the kids discovered the invention would need glass that “doesn’t break when you back [a car] up and hit something,” Boyce-Cormier said.


She believes this was a special group of kids, the right kind of group with the necessary passion to go far in the competition.

Boyce-Cormier said she was excited to tell the kids they won the regional title because it was unexpected.

“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 and 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. And I also want to really instill upon them that trying really hard and working at something academic is worthwhile,” she said.

She appreciated the team, and all of the younger kids she’s coached through this competition for their ability to think creatively and freely.


“It has nothing to do with [how innovative a project is]. It has to do with the fact that little kids are free to think,” Boyce-Cormier said. “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 is proud to bring this win back to the Regional School Unit 9 community and highlight “the importance of the gifted and talented program [that] gives kids who are super creative a chance to express themselves in a positive manner.”

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

Yau, Perry and Kiger were the winners among competitors from northeast America and have each won a Chromebook “to support the development of virtual posters, website and videos for the national phase of the competition,” according to a release from Toshiba.

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

The winning trio will now go to bat against the winners from five other regions for the national title, where they stand the chance to win a $10,000 savings bond. Toshiba is set to announce the winners May 6.

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