Clark Magnet wins Lexus Eco Challenge… Twice


Earlier this month, 15 students of David Black and Dominique Evans-Bye won a total of $20,000 in prize money in the 2013-2014 Land and Water Challenge of the Lexus Eco Challenge.

The Western Division of the Land and Water Challenge included middle and high school competitors from 13 western states, including Hawaii and Alaska. Of all high school teams, only two were chosen as winners, each receiving $10,000. The prize money was split up with $1,000 given to the team mentor, $7,000 divided evenly amongst team members and $2,000 for the team’s school. Both winning teams are from Clark Magnet.

Robotics instructor and team advisor David Black led the extracurricular “Team 696” to victory. Black encouraged seven volunteer students of his 696 First Robotics class to participate in the Lexus Eco Challenge. “Our victory reflects upon the authentic projects we do here,” said Black. “I thought ‘Hey, we should take a shot at this [competition].'”

In April, 2013, Team 696 constructed and launched the high-altitude weather balloon PANTHER-2 (the successor of 2012’s PANTHER-1) to survey the damaging effects of the 2009 Station Fire that burned parts of the Deukmejian Wilderness Park and the surrounding Angeles National Forest. Their aerial imagery and fieldwork collected data over 800 square miles of the region, allowing them to create an online database of invasive plant species and to partner with local officials to present their research.

Senior Saikiran Ramanan, along with his peers, dedicated afterschool and weekend hours to finish their project. “We did a lot of neat fieldwork, like watering native trees in Deukmejian Park to boost the habitat regrowth and rehabilitation process,” he said.

While this year was Team 696’s first recognition in the Lexus Eco Challenge, Clark Magnet has previously been recognized more than 10 times since 2007 thanks to the efforts of Marine Science Research and Environmental GIS (Geographic Info System) teacher Dominique Evans-Bye. (In the 2010-2011 Grand Challenge of the Lexus Eco Challenge, Evans-Bye and her team won a grand total of $70,000 for their analysis of toxins present in lobsters).

Asked if whether or not she and her team expected to win, Evans-Bye joked, ‘We always expect to win.’

Organized by Evans-Bye, the eight-student team “Eco Narcs MK II” was the second winner of the Land and Water Challenge. Unlike Black, Evans-Bye designed the project to be a part of her Environmental GIS class curriculum. “I helped by listening and advising, by making them do [the work],” she said. “They did everything else.”

Senior Alvin Dela Paz of the Eco Narcs MK II team was surprised to learn on Nov. 4 that his team had won the competition. “We had a lot of complications,” Dela Paz said. “I did not expect to win but I knew someone had to.”

Evans-Bye and her team tackled environmental deforestation, especially concerning the illegal harvesting of marijuana in the Angeles National Forest. Students assisted the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office by documenting the environmental damage resulting from the illegal growing sites. They used sophisticated GIS and mapping software to create an interactive map of all the damaged locations, where hazards such as organic fertilizers and toxic pesticides were abandoned.

“Our goal was to show the importance of environmental responsibility,” said Evans-Bye, who hopes her team will also win the Final Challenge of the Lexus Eco Challenge in February 2014.

Asked if whether or not she and her team expected to win, Evans-Bye joked, “We always expect to win.”

As for Black, Clark’s media publicity is an added bonus to their success. “We’re known for taking education beyond the classroom,” said Black. “It’s a cultural thing. It’s what we do.”