- Associated Press - Thursday, December 24, 2015

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) - A group of Alaska students is working to create affordable winter survival packs for their rural community as part of a national contest that challenges kids to solve local issues.

The team of sixth through eighth graders at the Kasigluk Akiuk Memorial School has begun working on the packs, which hold shelter, heating pads and a survival manual. The project, which could win the school about $120,000 worth of technology, is part of the annual Samsung Solve For Tomorrow contest, KYUK-FM reported (https://bit.ly/1QXWT6n).

“They come in everyday and they get started, and they work for hours just trying to come up with the best things possible,” said Natalie Cowley, a teacher leading the project.

Akiuk won at the state level earlier this month. The students have until February to submit their final projects.

The students have been using materials from around the village to the make the packs affordable for every home. They are testing different shelter designs, making sure the structures can withstand varying weather conditions. The students have used household chemicals, mainly baking powder and vinegar, to make the reusable heating pads.

The students are gathering information about winter survival from village elders. They are compiling what they learn into a Yup’ik and English language guidebook.

“We want the community involved in the school, that there’s this flow between what goes on in the community and what goes on in the school, and we all work together to support our students,” Cowley said.

The school won state in the competition two years ago after students created a device that maps underwater currents beneath the ice to help search and rescue efforts. The school won about $20,000 worth of technology, which included computers and tablets.

“The computers get used in three different classrooms for our reading program,” Cowley said, “and then the students are constantly using the tablets.”

Akiuk will receive a similar prize this year for winning state again. But the main goal, Cowley said, is more important than winning the competition.

“I want my kids to see that they can do anything that they want but still be a part of their local community,” she said.

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Information from: KYUK-AM, https://www.kyuk.org

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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