Bird control and beach bags topped this year's Caring for the Kenai winners list.
Olivia Pfeifer, a Kenai Central High School freshman, and Mandee Jackson a Nikiski Middle-High School sophomore, were the respective first- and second-place winners of the 19th annual competition.
CFK challenges students to come up with ideas to protect the environment on the Kenai Peninsula or improve its preparedness for natural disasters.
Pfeiffer researched the possibility of using a trained border collie to manage birds at the Kenai Municipal Airport.
Pfeiffer said she likes birds and used to keep two until allergies prevented her from doing so.
She became aware of the situation at the airport through her father, who works as an air traffic controller.
The city has tried numerous tactics to remove the birds, which pose a hazard to aircraft, including lighting firecrackers, firing guns and even shooting birds.
"Last summer, 841 birds were scared off," Pfeifer told the Kenai City Council on April 15. "Forty-eight were shot."
She researched the issue and found that a kennel based in North Carolina breeds collies to chase birds away from runways without harming the birds.
Upon further investigation she was able to talk with a dog handler where one of the border collies is used in an Augusta, Ga. airport.
"They've been really happy with it and they're really excited for having the dog there," Pfeifer said.
According to Pfeifer the dogs are more effective at removing the birds than some of the more conventional methods.
She's proposing the Kenai airport undertake a $3,500 pilot program and put a border collie to use. She's already taken her idea to the city council and said she's scheduled to meet with the airport commission.
Pfeiffer isn't thinking small though.
"If they got a dog here, we would be the first in the state so, I'm hoping to be successful here and then move on to other airports in Alaska," she said.
Pfeiffer received a $1,500 cash prize.
Taking second, was Jackson, whose project incorporates recycling Capri Sun juice drink pouches into useful beach bags, book bags and party favor bags.
"My mom and I started doing this 10 or 11 years ago. I figured it would be a good Caring for the Kenai project," Jackson said.
Jackson explained that the pouches are cut open and rinsed out before being joined with others to create the recycled bags.
To collect empties, Jackson set up bins in the cafeterias of local schools, and plans to sell the finished bags over the summer through the Kenaitze Tribe, of which she's a member.
The cost varies by the size of the bag.
Jackson touted the benefits of her bags, saying, "They're friendly to the environment and they help keep the aluminum and plastic out of our landfills."
They're stylish as well, she said.
"I think they're really cool looking and the reactions I've gotten from other people have been the same," she said. "My friends love them. Ten years ago we used them as party favor bags and to my knowledge, my friends still have them."
Jackson received a $1,000 cash prize as runner-up.
Merrill Sikorski, Caring for the Kenai coordinator, commended this year's finalists, saying, "This year I think we've seen the most unique ideas that show real problem solving and critical thinking."
He noted that in 19 years he's still impressed with the originality of the projects and sees them continuing to have an impact.
"When you take 500 kids each year for 19 years that's the impact this program has had on the community," he said.
Other winners in this year's CFK competition included, Anton Krull, a KCHS freshman in third place, claiming an $800 prize for his "DV8 Lego community" that teaches energy conservation.
Taking fourth place honors and $650 was Matt Fellman, of Soldotna High School, who applied his bio-waste kits to emergency disaster preparedness.
Coming in fifth and winning $550 was Cody Dutcher, of SoHi, who produced an instruction video for catch-and-release salmon fishing.
In sixth place and winning $400 was Cody Warfield, of SoHi, who had a plan to build a bio-fuel plant on the peninsula.
In addition to the $6,000 in cash awards for the finalists this year Tesoro, Chevron and the Kenai River Sportfishing Assocation, awarded $15,000 to the science departments of schools that participated in the competition.
This year SoHi, Nikiski Middle-High, Ninilchik School, KCHS, Skyview High, Hope School and Cook Inlet Academy all used CFK as part of their classroom curriculum. Each school receives $500 for participating, with the remainder allocated based on how their students place.
Additionally, more than 30 semi-finalist entries received special recognition awards from community sponsors.
Other CFK finalists who earned $250 cash each for their oral presentations were Garrett Bosick, from SoHi, who created an original "Trash Talk" game; Katie Dutcher, of CIA, who developed a home hazardous waste education plan; Dakota Elsey, of SoHi, who designed a public bus route for the Kenai Peninsula; Alice Han, of KCHS, who proposed heated sidewalks for winter safety; Austin Neal Murray, of SoHi, who made a case for the installation of highway delineators on the Sterling Highway and Aaron Williams, of KCHS, who devised a plan to remind people to remember to use their reusable bags.
Dante Petri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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