STEM Competition Challenges High School Students To Combat Spotted Lanternfly

High school students from four southeastern Pennsylvania counties will put their computer science skills on display November 9 as they compete in the Spotted Lanternfly Hackathon, a STEM-related initiative that invites students in grades 9-12 to design an app to easily track, detect, identify and access information about the invasive species.

Spotted Lanternfly is an invasive insect that has the potential to have a multi-billion-dollar economic impact on several important industries-- including grapes, apples, hops and hardwoods-- and early detection is vital for the protection of Pennsylvania’s businesses and agriculture.

“Students learn best when they can apply the skills they learn in class to real-world applicable experiences,” said Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. “By engaging them to help address the Department of Agriculture’s challenge, they can contribute their skills to improve conditions for Commonwealth agencies.”

The competition will include students from school districts in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.

It is being hosted by the PA SEED STEM Ecosystem in partnership with the departments of Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, and Education and represents a celebration of National STEM Day held on November 8.

“The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has teamed up with the federal government and colleges and universities to combat this invasive insect through research and education, and we are happy to have Pennsylvania’s high school students join the fight,” said Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding. “These students are using technology, innovation, and the critical skills learned in STEM programs to solve a real problem that threatens real commodities, has a real impact on our economy, and impedes the quality of life in real communities.”

Students will compete in regional competitions at the counties’ intermediate units on November  9, with one winner being selected from each county. The four winners will demonstrate their apps during the 2019 Pennsylvania Farm Show from January 5-12.

Data collected from the apps will be connected to state databases to help agencies stop the spread of the insect. Ideally, the goal is to have the apps available on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

“DCNR is proud to partner in this innovative education program that pits some of our brightest students against a very formidable insect foe,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “Pennsylvania’s trees are under attack - by not just this species, but the gypsy moth, emerald ash borer, hemlock woolly adelgid. Sadly, the list goes on and on. We need these young, sharp minds of today concentrating on how to best safeguard tree health of the future.”

Find out more about Spotted Lanternfly, visit Agriculture’s Lanternfly webpage, USDA’s website and Penn State Extension.

(Photo: Penn State Extension: Spotted Lanternfly: What To Look For.)


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