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Students Share Science Research and Message of Resilience in NY Sun Works 9th Annual Discovering Sustainability Science Conference

May 30, 2020

COVID-19 school closures didn’t stop these young farmer-scientists!  On Monday, May 18th, students from public schools around NYC came together virtually to share their research and celebrate their scientific accomplishments at NY Sun Works’ 9th Annual Discovering Sustainability Science Youth Conference.

The Conference, typically hosted at Symphony Space to accommodate the large audience, pivoted to an online format this year due to COVID-19.  But the switch to virtual didn’t tamp down the enthusiasm or energy of the students, all of whom showed impressive perseverance in shifting gears and continuing their months-long research projects from home after schools closed, under the remote guidance of their teachers.

“The whole conference was amazing!” said Wendy Rodriguez, a teacher at P.S. 176.  “All of the kids . . . wow!  They did a fantastic job!”

The 25 student speakers, who ranged from 5th to 12th grade, presented on an array of science and sustainability topics, including designing at-home hydroponic systems, the environmental hazards of microplastics, and the role of the Doomsday Vault in seed preservation.  Students examined the impact of environmental factors like temperature changes, flooding, and music on plant growth and how plants could be used in environmental and medical applications, such as for bioremediation of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal and the use of Mimosa pudica as a spinal cord stimulator.

The students were joined remotely by actress Stephanie Hsu, AKA Mei in Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, who returned for a second year to emcee and cheer on the students, and special guests Dr. Gioia Massa, a plant space scientist at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center; Jenn Frymark, plant biologist and Chief Greenhouse Officer at Gotham Greens; and Phil Vos and Kyle Jeremiah, biogas experts at Energy Vision.  Fifth grader Rohan Gibr Rao-Fernandez succinctly summarized the experience when he said,

“I learned about all of the jobs involving how we, people, work with plant life including growing plants in space that are edible.  WOW!  And I saw that we have so much science that we have not learned yet.”

In what’s been a very difficult time for all, these students sent an inspiring message of resilience and determination.  As Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams shared in his post-conference message,

“This is a tough time in New York’s history.  But today I’m feeling hope for our city after watching the incredible student scientists share their hard work [and] innovative research projects that will help New York be greener and healthier in the long term.”


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