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Elementary students mentored at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette have earned international acclaim for a device they created to combat dead zones that wipe out marine life and habitat.

Team Phoenix, a group of students from Lafayette whose ages range from 11 to 14, claimed one of two runner-up awards in the recent Global Innovation competition in Washington, D.C.

Their Floating Island Sustainable Habitat, or FISH, project was one of 20 semifinalists selected from 130 submissions from 29 countries.

It consists of a grid of interlocking, floating panels made of biodegradable plastic. The porous network supports root growth and holds plants that absorb nutrients. Excess nutrients can cause dead zones, such as one in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dr. Doug Williams, a professor of education who coaches Team Phoenix at UL Lafayette’s Center for Innovative Learning and Assessment Technologies, said the honor carries a $5,000 prize.

The money will enable students to improve the device, for which they have filed a provisional patent application. Team Phoenix will build additional prototypes, file a full patent application and work on a downloadable application for the project, Williams said.

The students developed FISH with feedback from UL Lafayette professors in disciplines such as architecture, biology, chemistry, engineering and design. They also tapped the expertise of industry professionals, such as mechanical engineers.

Team Phoenix members include: Benjamin Chopin, 14; Jacob Landreneau, 14; Jack MacFadyen, 11; Miguel Pagán, 12; Aaron Williams, 13; and Joseph Williams, 11. All students are from Lafayette. Aaron Williams attends John Paul the Great Academy. The other students are homeschooled. Past team members Francisco Pagán, 16, who is homeschooled, and Caleb Williams, 16, who attends John Paul the Great Academy, helped mentor this year’s team.

Learn more about the project at FISH3D.biz

Learn more about the Global Innovation competition, which is sponsored by First Lego League, at http://www.firstlegoleague.org/

Shown, from left: Miguel Pagán, Joseph Williams and Aaron Williams test a prototype for their Floating Island Sustainable Habitat, or FISH. The young students, who are mentored at UL Lafayette, created the device to combat dead zones that wipe out marine life and habitat.

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