Problem Definition Award - Middle School

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 13: Climate Action

2021 Youth Design Challenge

This design concept was developed by participants in the Institute’s Youth Design Challenge. The descriptions below are from the team’s competition entry materials.

School: North Star Academy
Location: Redwood City, CA, United States
Coach: Zena Fadel
Team members: Aubrey Needham, Lily Gustafson, Michael Preys, Quinten Lee, Sana Endamne-Wamba, Tahl Harel, Zacharie Vidana

Video Pitch

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Innovation Details

This team chose to address the problem of deforestation by designing a method to make it easier to replant trees over large areas. Project RED proposes a maple seed inspired seed-carrier that could be released from airplanes to then float to the ground on wing-like propellers. Made out of a water soluble paper, the device would rapidly biodegrade as the tree seedling begins to grow.


What is the problem addressed for this Challenge and how is it related to climate change?

The problem the team addressed for this challenge is deforestation. Deforestation is the destruction of trees in natural areas. This is related to climate change because one of the main causes of climate change is the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. One of these greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide. Trees absorb CO2 and produce oxygen into the atmosphere. By destroying trees less CO2 is being absorbed out of the atmosphere which increases the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere the warmer the climate is. This causes destructive damage to the earth.


What does this design solution do? How does it solve and improve a problem?

This design solution is supposed to spread seeds in an effective way without hurting the environment in the process. Seed packages will be dropped made from biodegradable materials from a helicopter so the packages will spread around and cover a large area of land. Once the seeds are dropped the materials will decompose and the seeds will start to sprout into trees. The hope is that the seed spreader will help many trees grow and absorb carbon from the atmosphere. The product is aiming to improve deforestation in a more effective and efficient way.


How was this solution inspired by nature? What organisms inspired it?

This solution was inspired by nature by using the propellers of maple seeds as a way of distributing seeds efficiently and not in one specific spot having a close to equal spread of the seeds being dropped. The team was also inspired by the edamame bean and how they secured their seeds. The design was taken from the edamame bean and the maple seed. The team learned how they protect and spread their seeds. With this information, the team took the parts that were the most important of the problem and the product to create the most beneficial design.