Meet the Team: The Pioneers

During the 2018-19 school year, teams of middle schoolers tackled the problem of plastic pollution in our waterways with the National Geographic GeoChallenge. First-place teams from sixteen regional competitions traveled to the 2019 Geo Championships in Washington, D.C. in May 2019. This blog series introduces you to each of those teams in their own words.* Registration for the 2019-2020 #NatGeoChallenge is open! Register at

Meet The Pioneers!

Team Pioneers photo provided by team.jpg
The second-place team from the 2018-2019 GeoChallenge, The Pioneers from Missouri (photo provided by the team)

The second-place team for the GeoChallenge at the 2019 Geo Championships and recipient of $10,000 to implement their solution was The Pioneers team. The Pioneers team developed a filter device to prevent debris, microplastics, and toxins from entering storm water drains in St. Louis, Missouri. To increase public awareness, the team planned a “sponsor a storm drain” program. 

From: Epiphany Stars, Missouri

Team Motto: Pioneering Past Plastic Pollution

A funny thing about your coach: She surprises us with tutorials that we didn’t know were possible, and always has a bunch of randomly useful tools in her bag—just like Mary Poppins and her carpet bag.

The biggest obstacle you had to overcome as a team: Valuing everyone’s opinions and personalities even when we don’t agree.

List one way you’ve changed your single-use plastic use:

Elise: I have stopped using plastic bags and grocery bags when packing my lunch.

Titus: I am trying to not use as many straws.

Naomi: I am using fewer plastic bags.

Abby: I am using bowls instead of plastic bags for snacks.

Favorite moment at the regional competition:

Dulce: Meeting and becoming friends with others who are interested in educating people about plastic pollution.

Anna: My favorite moment at regionals was hearing our name being called for first place.


Registration for the 2019-2020 National Geographic GeoChallenge is now open. 

*Team responses have been lightly edited for grammar.

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