Students’ bio-filter is a winner for this Coast school and its community

Their city is surrounded by water. Their high school has an aquaculture program and an engineering program, and the Samsung competition required a project that would help the community.

So students and teachers with the the Career and Technical Education program decided their project would be a bio-filter designed to filter water going into the city’s waterways — the Escatawpa River, the Pascagoula River and the Mississippi Sound.

They learned late last week they won the state and are headed to the nationals. What will CTE Director Durand Payton do with the $25,000 in state winnings? Reinvest in the program, he said.

Samsung Electronics America Inc. placed Moss Point among 51 state winners in the contest it calls Solve for Tomorrow — challenging students to use science, technology, engineering, arts and math to solve real-world problems and change their communities.

This year’s state projects range from apps promoting kindness and empathy to an automatic wildfire extinguishing system.

Then there’s Moss Point’s bio-filter.

“We all fish in these waters. Simple things can improve the cleanliness,” Payton said. “This will do it. We want to stop pollutants from going into the waterways.”

The solution involves plastic bottle caps. Enough said for now. But the school is working on the 3-minute video that is part of the entry. It must show the students actually designing and building the project. There will be a package of data, activity logs and documents of test runs.

In this case, the CTE’s engineering students designed it and aquaculture built it.

They have until Feb. 13 to complete and send in the entry.

Ten national finalists will pitch their projects to a panel of judges. For achieving that status, seven schools will receive a $50,000 Samsung technology package and three will progress to the national winner stage. Three national winners will be selected for a $150,000 tech package and all 10 national finalists will be eligible to compete for an extra $20,000 tech package based on social media voting.

Thousands of schools entered Samsung’s contest. Three from the Coast advanced to the state level, where Moss Point won.

Moss Point has one of only two aquaculture programs in the state.

Ocean Springs has the other, with the support of the University of Southern Mississippi’s marine research campus, but Moss Point had to create the majority of its program. In it, the students in Moss Point work in the bayous near the high school to grow bull minnows.

“CTE is not just where you send kids that aren’t going to college,” Payton said. “It’s vo-tech on steroids.”

He plans to go after state funds that may be allocated for aquaculture. Savvy in the art of obtaining grant money, Payton has acquired 3D printers, drones, valuable engraving machines and robots for the CTE program and the school system.

Payton calls the pairing of his engineers with aquaculture a “natural marriage” for this project.

The bio-filter is “cutting edge,” he said, “21st Century, to help out the environment.”

“This is Moss Point. We have water access everywhere,” he said. “This is also a way to give back to the community — a bio-filter for the culverts, to stop what’s entering the river.

“A lot of kids like to swim in the river,” he said. “The speckled trout fishing is good about now.”