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Sustainability: the Sky’s the Limit

2013 June 7

By Joan Hurley

Kite shaped like a snake with fangs

“The Queen Viper”

“Go fly a kite!” While that phrase has become a euphemism for not-so-politely telling someone to buzz off, the scientists, engineers, and others working in EPA’s Western Ecology Lab in Corvallis, Oregon recently challenged local school students to do just that.

As part of the lab’s 2013 Earth Day activities, the EPA staff held a juried kite contest called “The Sky’s the Limit” that invited local sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students to build a kite that sends a message about sustainability, recycling, or another environmental theme. Students could enter one of two categories: functional (a kite that flies), or decorative (a display kite with an environmental message or design); kites also had to contain at least one recycled element.

Each participating school selected six semifinalists from each category. Finalists, along with their teachers and parents, visited the lab on Earth Day for a reception and a chance to show off their entries to a panel of judges that included lab director Thomas Fontaine, local artist Zel Brook, and Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning.

Kings Valley Team (200)

Team members from Kings Valley Charter School.

“We made everything with reusable materials. It flies really well and we spent a lot of time on it. It sends a message that all animals are important to Earth, even if they are kind of scary,” wrote Andi Beck, who along with fellow Kings Valley Charter School classmates Victoria Fite and Sairah Ziola took home top prize in the functional category. You can see their kite—which they named “The Queen Viper” because of its resemblance to a snake—in the picture above. “The body is several segments of fabric sewn together, with triangles of fabric sewn on top of the segments to the end of the snake,” adds Sairah Ziola.

The winners of the artistic category are from Franklin School.

The winners of the artistic category are from Franklin School.

In the artistic category, the judges selected the kite made by Anabel Chang, Lucy Meigs, and Travis Hinz, which uses Chinese calligraphy to convey a message about the importance of sustainable energy. “The middle characters mean energy, the top means water, and the white means wind,” explains Anabel Chang. “It says that we should use energies that are better for our environment,” adds Lucy Meigs, while Travis Hinz points out the kite “is in the shape of a wind turbine, with three wings.”

These grand prize winners received a unique “recycled” trophy designed and constructed by EPA scientist Bill Rugh. Going along with the sustainable energy theme, the trophies function as wind speed generators! All participants also received Olympic-style medallions made from used coffee cup lids.

The artistic kite winner.

The artistic kite winner.

“The Sky’s the Limit” contest helped the lab and the local community engage in a fun-filled learning experience for all. The scientists and others at the lab got to share a little bit of what they do to advance environmental research, and the students got to learn about sustainability and help spread the word about why it is important. It’s enough to make you want to go fly a kite!

About the Author: Joan Hurley has worked at EPA’s Western Ecology Division lab as an Information Specialist and helping run outreach events, such as Earth Day, since 2005.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. Arman.- permalink
    June 7, 2013


    Since long-long ago, so much people to try to forecast a doomsday, but “negative…”! From the beginning, today, we must stop this myth and promoting that the planets around us shall hope visited human!

  2. shirley permalink
    June 9, 2013

    I find it absolutely mindboggling that anyone in this country can speak about the environment and not address the effect of NASCAR, NHRA, Monster Truck, Demolition Derby and every other vehicle oriented “sport.” (and I use that term lightly) It is an affront to every person whose vehicle fail inspection because of emissions. Motor vehicle gives us citizens such a difficult time when we are just trying to keep our car running to keep a job to keep a roof over our head and feed our family. If your vehicle fails three emissions test you have to take it off the road (throw it away).
    Until 2008, they (NASCAR) were still using high octane leaded fuel. There are races where three different drivers drive for24 hours. Why? There was one racing event that touted 8,000 horsepower and 300mph. I wanted to PUKE!!!!!!!!!!!! Is anyone really serious about decreasing greenhouse gases , thus helping save this planet?

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