Green Heart STEM Challenge 2024: Students Solve Water Justice Issues in Atlanta and Houston

Captain Planet Foundation celebrated the work of over 350 students across metro Atlanta and Houston at the Green Heart STEM Challenge for Environmental Justice final events. This program, designed by Captain Planet Foundation, challenges young people to explore and identify environmental justice issues in their communities and to design feasible solutions to address these problems.

In its second year, the 2024 Green Heart STEM Challenge engaged students across both metro Atlanta and Houston. Each year the challenge identifies a specific theme inspired by the elements; this year’s theme was Water Justice. The students spent three months learning about water pollution and scarcity and studying how these realities impact the places they call home. With the help of their teachers, each team identified the root cause of an issue, then designed and proposed a solution to address it in an effective way. 

At each final event, three teams from each age group – Primary, Junior and Senior – pitched their solution to a panel of judges. The judges panels were made up of professionals within the environmental field who exemplify advocacy in environmental justice within their careers. Equally inspired by the work of the youth standing in front of them, these judges helped the students consider various factors of implementing their solutions.

Dekalb Judges Panel: Daniel Blackman, Director, Office of STEM Diversity, EPA, Doll Avant, CEO of Aquageniuty, Sofi Armenakian,  Sustainability Director, Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena, Andrei Greenwood,  Creative Director, Taproot Earth, Sterling J. Johnson, Director, Just Opportunity Portfolio​ Partnership for Southern Equity, Lakeisha Sesay, Public Sector Strategy Consultant, Accenture

Houston Judges Panel: Steven David, Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor John Whitmire, Meera Victor, Vice President of Carollo Engineers, Riya Santra, Senior Analyst, Accenture

The winning teams from each age group will receive an implementation grant of $1,000 to carry out their solution and will attend an Idea Incubator where they will work with professionals from Captain Planet Foundation on how to transform their idea into reality.

The final events in both cities rallied excitement around solving water justice issues. As the students witnessed their peers create effective solutions for problems within their community, many gained a realization that the power to create change and stand against injustice was well within their reach. 

Read more about the winning solutions from both metro Atlanta and Houston below. 

Metro Atlanta:

Primary Winner: Team Hard Work, Hawthorne Elementary

Junior Winner: Zeta, Wadsworth Magnet School

Senior Winner: Group 26 Team 4, Fernbank Science Center

Metro Houston:

Primary Winner: Bulldog Water Patrol

Junior Winner: Green Giants

Senior Winner: Chavez HS