A group of Cedar Park Elementary third-graders in Apple Valley have won first place in the Minnesota Zoo’s ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge, presented by Flint Hills Resources.

Aarav Balaji, Cruz Stepp and Mason Paulick took first place for enrichment design for their project “The Shower Massage,” according March 30 post on Cedar Park’s Facebook page.

The Minnesota Zoo for Educator’s Facebook page said in a March 31 post that this year marked the highest engagement in the program with a record 5,000 students, 66 schools and 104 teachers. This year’s challenged involved developing an enrichment for one of the zoo’s Hawaiian monk seals or redesigning the former nocturnal hallway with a new rainforest theme.

“Of the nearly 1,500 projects created, only 100 projects were selected to advance to the ZOOMS Exhibition. While we were disappointed that we were unable to have students present to us in person or virtually for the exhibition, we were happy to find a way to continue to recognize these students,” the post said.

“This ultimately involved zoo education staff digitally reviewing photos and students’ written descriptions of their innovative projects to determine awards. It was amazing to see how students used STEM, creativity, teamwork, and their passion for saving wildlife to help solve these real life design challenges for the Minnesota Zoo.”

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