Caring for the Kenai logo. (Image courtesy Merrill Sikorski)

Caring for the Kenai logo. (Image courtesy Merrill Sikorski)

Homer students place in Caring for the Kenai contest

Last year’s local winner of the Caring for the Kenai competition took home third place this year for his continued work with converting plastics into 3D printer filament.

Austin Cline, a student at Homer High School, took third place in the annual competition on Aug. 6 after the event was held virtually, rather than in person, according to a press release from Program Creator Merrill Sikorski. The competition asks peninsula students each year to create a project that helps to better take care of the Kenai Peninsula’s environment, or that would help people be better prepared for a natural disaster.

The contest is administered by the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska, in Kenai. It is also wrapped into curriculum within the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

Cline won first place in the 2019 contest for his project titled “Plastics Reimagined,” converting No. 5 plastics, which are not able to be recycled on the peninsula, into filament for 3D printers. His third place win last week in the 30th year of the competition was for continued work in that area.

“My new process takes the place of two machines and makes the process more cost effective,” Cline told the panel of judges during his Zoom presentation of his project, according to the press release.

For his efforts, Cline was awarded a $900 prize.

Another finalist making it to the top 12 out of 400 entries was Homer High student Madison Story, for her project, “Beneficial bins for increased recycling.” She won $400 for being a finalist.

Winning the competition is Anna DeVolld, a home school Connections student from Soldotna, for her Promote Our Pollinators project. DeVolld, who took third place last year, won $1,600 for her first place win this year.

Taking second place in the contest were Lindy Guernsey and Akilena Veach from Seward, who also took second place last year. They won $1,100 for their work using a drone to survey floodplains in Seward, which gave data to the Seward Flood Board to help prevent property damage during future flooding events. They built the drone using a 3D printer.

In fourth place was Nekoda Cooper of Kenai Central High School for his work promoting a market for fruits and vegetables that would otherwise be thrown away. In fifth place was Elyse Ledda of Cook Inlet Academy for her project to make Polystyrene printer material out of recyclable plastics.

In sixth place was Soldotna High School’s Ashley Dahlman for her work to upcycle old clothing into updated wardrobes.

The other finalists filling out the top 12 were: Andrew Gaethle of Kenai Central High School, Carter Kincaid of Soldotna High School, Regan Evans of Soldotna High School, Jesse Wahl of Cook Inlet Academy and Emily Lamb of Cook Inlet Academy.

“We really appreciate the patience of this year’s finalists as the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the scheduled oral presentations shortly after the top 12 were selected in early March,” Sikorski is quoted as saying in the press release. “This certainly isn’t what we had in mind for our 30th Anniversary, but (Caring for the Kenai) is a real world experience and the virus has changed the world and how we do things. The creativity and resiliency of our community and our youth brings hope for the future.”

The finalists were scheduled to receive their awards, along with the teachers who helped them, at the joint Kenai/Soldotna Chamber of Commerce meeting on Wednesday at the Kenai Visitors & Cultural Center.

Reach Megan Pacer at

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