OCEAN CITY — In yet another lunch break set aside for business Monday, Isabella Kenny and Daphne Broyzna recite the presentation they’ll give to the Ocean City Board of Education next week.
They knew it by heart, not stumbling on their words even once.
The fourth-graders at Ocean City Intermediate School are ready and happy to talk about their idea for an app called ReCraft, a spin-off of the game Minecraft, except players in this version build their structures with water bottles, cardboard boxes, paper and other recyclables.
“We realized most kids don’t know what to recycle and what’s trash,” Broyzna said. “We also know a lot of kids like to play Minecraft. So we thought ‘What if we could combine them?’”
Never, the students said, did they think their idea would take them to the state final of the STEAM Tank Challenge, a state contest in which students face off to see which group can come up with the most innovative invention.
STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, the arts and math.
Sponsored by the New Jersey School Boards Association and the Army, the contest included three regional competitions in the state, in which 15 schools from kindergarten through eighth grade and 15 high schools in each region faced off for a place in the final.
Winners from each grade – 36 in all – advanced to the final out of 193 total applicants.
Competing in the southern regional in Blackwood on May 5, Kenny and Broyzna were the only group out of the 15-team field unanimously voted to compete in Atlantic City, according to their computer science teacher, Maureen Baldini.
Talking excitedly about the project on Monday, the students said they wanted to give their classmates an incentive to recycle.
“Not many kids are recycling,” Kenny said. After they realized students either weren’t recycling as much as they should or weren’t sure which items belong in which bin, Kenny and Broyzna decided to frame their idea around recycling. It grew from there.
Kenny and Broyzna are members of the OC Life 21 Club in the intermediate school, headed by Baldini. She said the 10-year-olds began working on the project in January, often skipping recess and lunch to work on it in the computer lab.
They wanted it to be perfect, they said.
“I thought it was just one of those ideas that you would think it would never actually work,” said Broyzna. “And then you would think of another idea and the same thing would happen. I didn’t think we would actually be in the finals.”
When the two began formulating their idea, they researched which items should be recycled and which shouldn’t. Members of the Ocean City Public Works Department told the students that recycling is important, and that it saves trees, natural resources, energy, space and money, Kenny said.
They then surveyed a group of about 50 fourth- and fifth-graders, asking them what should and shouldn’t be recycled.
ReCraft could be the solution to the problem, they say in their presentation.
Instead of being given supplies to build like in Minecraft, they said, players have to earn items by recycling them. When they have an item they need to recycle, they open the ReCraft app and snap a picture of the item before recycling the item. After recycling the item, the new building materials will appear on the game, they said.
Further, Kenny and Broyzna created a ticket system to accommodate policy on cell phone use in school.
Instead of taking a picture of the recyclable item they want to use in the game, they can show it to their teacher, who would then give the student a ticket branded with a QR code. Players can then scan the code on the app when they arrive home from school, and the item will appear, they said.
“They wanted to make recycling fun for the kids,” Baldini said.
Kenny and Broyzna were one of six teams selected out of the south region to present their idea in the final Oct. 24 and 25 during the NJSBA’s Workshop 2017 conference at the Atlantic City Convention Center.