Three Prairie Queen Elementary students recently won a Facebook-sponsored “Engineer For the Week” STEM contest, the first Nebraskans and youngest team every to do it.
Facebook gives the winning teams $1,000 to donate to a nonprofit of their choice.
Fifth-graders Luke Freeman, Barron Jungman and Nathan Waggoner, students in Stacey Muller’s class, wanted to keep their donation in the local community and decided to give their prize to the Tri-City Food Pantry, serving the Papillion, La Vista and Ralston communities.
The boys, their parents and Muller took a tour of the Tri-City Pantry on Feb. 17 and took away a greater appreciation of what the pantry provides the surrounding communities and where their money is going.
“I didn’t expect the kinds of foods people get here,” said Nathan.
“I was expecting just cans of food, but they really have a lot more stuff,” said Luke.
Pantry Director Melissa Nelson explained to the boys the pantry uses monetary donations to buy things they don’t usually get donated, like meat and toiletries, and how they look for the best prices to stretch their dollars.
“She (Nelson) showed us boxes and boxes of (Patrick) Mahomes cereal they got for 15 cents a box, that was cool,” said Barron.
“I’m glad we can help more people that need it because we’re in a pandemic,” said Luke.
Muller explained the Facebook STEM coding contest challenged the teams of students aged 11-18 to design a game to solve a problem in their communities and the boys designed the “Corona Shooter.” The game has the player “spray” the bad COVID germs until all the unhealthy germs are gone.
Muller said more than 700 schools participated with 1,500 students. The boys were the only team from Nebraska and the only elementary team to win.
“I didn’t think we would win since there were high schoolers playing,” said Nathan.
But the boys did win. And the Tri-City Pantry wins too.
“She (Nelson) said our money we give the pantry will help buy meat for one month for the people who come here. I think that’s cool,” said Luke.
“The boys showed a lot of grit and determination on this project. They never gave up when they ran into bugs with their game. They learned teamwork and commitment and now they can see where their efforts will benefit the community,” said Muller.