Hampton Roads Middle Schoolers Create Crowd-funded “Baysaver” Garden Kits

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A pair of 12-year-olds from Newport News and their robotics team have come up with a garden seed kit that can help homeowners protect the Bay from polluted stormwater runoff.

Luke Marston and Joshua Nichols, members of the Ruling Robot Falcons, invented the BaySavers Buffer Garden Kit, for the international FIRST LEGO League competition. In addition to designing and programming a Lego robot to complete a series of missions, teams  are required to research and solve a real-world problem.

After researching the human water cycle and the various forms of pollution that can affect the Chesapeake waterways, the boys decided on creating an easy-to-use buffer garden seed kit as a practical way for property owners to take part in Bay cleanup.

Buffer gardens, which are typically sloped landscape beds made up of carefully-selected plants, filter harmful nutrients and sediment from runoff before they can reach and pollute nearby bodies of water.

The team did research and met with experts at a number of regional institutions including the Virginia Living Museum, Lynnhaven River Now, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, for help with their design and marketing process and tweak their final product. Amy Nichols, a Falcons coach, says simplicity was key in designing a product that would encourage people to make a difference:

“It’s an easier way for people to help solve the problem. If it’s not easy, people won’t use it.”

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A Kickstarter campaign raised more than $2,000 in funds to make the project a reality and get the kit into the hands of 90 (and counting) environmentally-conscious customers in the region. Kits, which are available in sun or shade varieties, can be purchased in select stores and online.

For Marston, creating the BaySavers kit was a rewarding experience all around. “It’s such a win-win project,” he says, “protecting my Bay with my favorite plants.”

For their hard work, the Falcons received 1st Place Robot Performance and 1st Place Champions Award recognition. The team will also compete in the World Festival in Detroit in late April.

To buy your own BaySavers kit, click here.

-Laura Boycourt

Megan Viviano