Arizonans know concrete quickly heats up in the late spring and summer. A team of Catholic school eighth-graders have an award-winning idea to curb heat absorption.

The Concrete Coolers is both the team name and solution St. John XXIII students proposed during the 16th annual eCYBERMISSION competition. It’s one of several science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiatives sponsored by the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP).

Students worked in teams of three or four students to identify a problem in their community and used scientific practices or the engineering design process to develop a solution. eCYBERMISSION, administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), is a web-based competition for students in grades six through nine. Awards were given at each grade level.

Dr. Karl Ochsner, teacher at St. John XXIII, served as team adviser for “The Concrete Coolers,” Deanna Lord, Kathryn Saunders, Tegan Kelley and Elle Aister during the eCYBERMISSION competition. (courtesy photo)

St. John XXIII’s eighth-graders — Deanna Lord, Kathryn Saunders, Tegan Kelley and Elle Aister — worked with Dr. Karl Ochsner, team advisor, to create an additive to concrete to cool the surface area on roads to prevent heat absorption. The teams submitted their Mission Folder — the official write-up of the project — through the eCYBERMISSION website for evaluation by volunteer judges.

“The remarkable projects submitted by these students demonstrate their commitment to tackling some of their communities’ most daunting challenges. The U.S. Army is truly awed by the thoughtfulness and originality behind the ideas put forth by these students,” said Louie R. Lopez, AEOP Cooperative Agreement Manager. “I congratulate the state winners on their accomplishments and wish them luck in the next phase of the eCYBERMISSION competition.”

The three highest-scoring projects from each region in each grade level move on to the next round. Sixty regional finalist teams will compete to advance as one of 20 national finalists at the National Judging & Educational Event (NJ&EE), June 17-22 in Washington, D.C.

First-place state winning teams received $1,000 per student team member in U.S. EE Savings Bonds and second-place state winning teams received $500 per student team member in U.S. EE Savings Bonds.

“The level of creativity and dedication these students have shown through their projects is truly impressive. Their imaginative ideas are shining examples of the innovation we try to foster every day in STEM education classrooms nationwide,” said Dr. David Crowther, NSTA President.

This isn’t the first time that St. John XXIII students or those across the Diocese of Phoenix excelled in this competition. Local eighth-graders captured first and second place titles in 2016.