While most high schools are in the midst of competing for football championships, six high schools in Virginia are competing to create an app that will help clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Over 100,000 derelict crab traps litter the Bay, abandoned after their float lines are unintentionally cut and fisherman can no longer locate them. The traps remain in waterways for up to 7 years, threatening marine life and boaters alike. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) is partnering with the Office of the Secretary of Education and the Office of the Secretary of Natural Resources to present the Crab Trap App Challenge to local high schoolers.
Blue crabs are an important economic and ecological resource for Virginia, but their numbers have declined over the years. One reason for this is the derelict crab traps that continue to ensnare marine life for the months or years that they remain lost in the waterways. Not only are crabs caught in the traps, the traps also catch fish like white perch and sea bass. Even terrapin, a threatened turtle species, may fall victim to these traps. Furthermore, abandoned traps damage sensitive habitats, such as seagrass beds and oyster reefs, and create navigational hazards for boaters.
Cleaning up the derelict traps is complicated by a Virginia law that requires permission from the state to remove them. Interested people must undergo training and record specific information about the trap and its contents. A smart phone app could simplify and streamline the process to increase removal efforts. After watching an instructional video, authorized users would be allowed to download the app to their smart phone. The app would give users the ability to photograph the trap while automatically recording its location and the date and time it was retrieved. Users would then be prompted to fill out information about the trap and the organisms within it before uploading the data to a shared database.
This project is perfect for high school students with backgrounds in computer science and biology. “Engaging students in the real-world problem of derelict fishing gear through a STEM challenge is an excellent way to prepare them to think critically and design solutions that have real benefits for the Chesapeake Bay,” says Natural Resources Secretary Mathew Stickler in an article published by VIMs. The teams that create the top three programs will be invited to present their apps to a panel of experts in-person at VIMs. The schools of the winning teams will also be awarded monetary prizes of up to $1,250.
By bringing together scientists, government officials, local citizens, and young students, the Crab Trap App Challenge is a picture-perfect example of how collaboration can solve environmental problems.
What are some other environmentally friendly apps?
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