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Blockheads Go To Washington

Science project earns Girl Scouts from Sperreng a trip to the White House

Girl Scout Troop 1484 at the White House shown with Bill Nye "The Science Guy." Scouts are, from left: Christina Yepez, Sindhu Bala, Sydney Gralike, Julianna Jones and Reagan Mattison (foreground). photo courtesy Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri.

April 22, 2016
Being called a "blockhead" is not necessarily a bad thing. Ask members of Girl Scout Troop 1484 from Sperreng Middle School.

The troop, also known as the Blockheads, devised a method of recycling Styrofoam, found a use for the byproduct, and got to meet President Barack Obama because of their efforts.

Sperreng students Sindhu Bala, Ellie Englund, Sydney Gralike, Julianna Jones, Reagan Mattison and Christina Yepez took a Trash Trek Challenge that asked teams to search for new solutions to recycling, reusing and repurposing trash.

The girls, who are in the sixth and seventh grades, focused on Friendship Village.

"Our research started with Friendship Village and we asked them what their biggest trash problem was," Reagan said. "They said Styrofoam was because it took up so much space."

Christina said Friendship Village throws away at least 20,000 Styrofoam cups a month — almost 200 pounds. Styrofoam takes almost 500 years to decompose.

The Blockheads came up with the "EcoBin," a metal bin containing a substance that dissolves Styrofoam, enabling households and businesses to reduce their waste.

"We found a video that said Styrofoam could be dissolved using a non-toxic chemical called d-Limonene, which is made from orange peels," Juliana said. "We ended up dissolving a stack of Styrofoam, the size of a refrigerator, and it came down to two cups of gooey substance."

That "gooey substance" turned out to be a strong adhesive — an unexpected byproduct of their invention. The girls named it "GlOo" and marketed it to their school and to other Girl Scout troops for art projects.

The Blockheads celebrate during their trip to the Nation's Capital.

"It's completely non-toxic," Sydney said. "We checked with a chemical lab, then we shared it with the art teacher who said it was better than other brands. Then we shared with other teachers and the people at Friendship Village."

The Blockheads are pursuing patents for the "EcoBin" and "GlOo." Their efforts earned the girls the chance to compete for the Global Innovation Award at FIRST Lego League Nationals.

"The EcoBin is something that people can have in their homes and businesses," Gralike said. "When it dissolves, you can keep it out of the landfill."

The girls won the Innovative Solutions Award at the Eastern Missouri State Championships held last December, and will compete for the Global Innovation Award at FIRST Lego League Nationals in June.

Blockheads Go To Washington

The scouts recently traveled to Washington, D.C., where they met with President Barack Obama. The White House Science Fair was started by the president six years ago. Obama established the Science Fair as a way to spotlight students making waves in science, technology, engineering and math.

This year's science fair was one of the biggest, with about 40 groups of students showcasing their projects.

"They advertise and send out applications, and have specific requirements," said Lauren Kornegay Dollar, a robotics coordinator for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri.

"Since the girls had been nominated for an Innovative Solutions Award, the applications were sent on to Girl Scouts of the United States of America. The organization looked at hundreds of nominations and the girls were one of five groups sent to the White House."

Blockhead Coach Michele Yepez said the Sperreng-based Girl Scout troop was the only troop invited to exhibit at the event, and the only students from Missouri.

Following the science fair, the girls were invited to stand with the president during his speech. They appeared on CNN, met Bill Nye "The Science Guy," and spent time with Adam Savage from the TV show "Mythbusters."

The Blockheads all agreed that meeting with the president was "really cool."

"He took time to talk to us and learn about our project and how we created it," Christina said. "He's really a good person and was very interested in what we had done."

To the delight of the girls, Obama tested the glue by gluing a business card onto their poster.

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