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Fairchild Challenge at Phipps: Challenge #1 Winners Announced!
Nov 12

Fairchild Challenge at Phipps: Challenge #1 Winners Announced!

By Emily Johns, High School Program Coordinator

Thank you to the many schools that submitted entries for Challenge #1!  In this first challenge of the 2018-2019 school year, students combined both writing and visual arts skills in their submissions. 

The middle school challenge was titled “My STEAM Mentors,” and challenged students to come up with a set of five to eight mentors from any of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) fields.  They had to write a short biography and create an original portrait for each mentor in their booklet.  The students did an awesome job – they selected a variety of inspiring mentors, from their parents and teachers to Sally Ride and Vincent Van Gogh, and showcased their excellent writing and art skills.

The high school challenge was called “Shaped by Nature,” and was designed as a collaboration with local artist and Phipps’ Artist in Residence Ashley Cecil.  This complex challenge tasked students to compare and contrast a human organ or organ system with a plant or biological system based on either synergy, similarity or human dependence.  Students wrote a comparative essay and created a two dimensional artistic rendering of the biological system superimposed over the organ.  We received a variety of works for this challenge – students made unique comparisons and used diverse media.  Select pieces from this challenge will be exhibited in our Center for Sustainable Landscapes Green Gallery. 

And the winners are:

Middle School

First: Trinity Middle School, Milena Hrutkay, Maddy Roberts, Ava Campman and Sydney Avant

Second: Keystone Oaks Middle School, Ivy Ball, Allison Voss, Bella Garrity, Anthony Paladino, Reagan Shartle, Emily Gibbons, Ava Conner and Cameron Grabowski

Third: Woodland Hills Academy, Isabel Concepcion, Mia Damico, Lillian Divelbiss, Raven Dean, Mackenna Matthews, Ayden Stone, Giavonna Zinn, Lena Laubscher, Isabele Wilson, Isabella Caldwell, Ella DeVore, Leila Nestico, Helena Marshall, Owen Phillips, Lizzie Geyer, Cameron Taylor Simone Wilson, Nathan Scott and Alex Shimenko

Special Merit: Carson Middle School, Josefina Georgi, Angel Qu, Andrew McLaughlin, Maria Schwendeman, Maggie Mu, Lily Tang, Lillian Paul, Grace Wang, Yuki Qian, Hallie Dong and Nicole Mendt


High School

First: Caden Ferita, Benjamin Hommel and Breanna Moorehead, Westinghouse Arts Academy Charter School

Second: Colton Edwards, Trent Edwards and Isaac Hess, Westinghouse Arts Academy Charter School

Third: Maya Weaver, Oakland Catholic High School

Special Merit:

  • Anna Coleman and Candra Bair, Saltburg Middle High School
  • Grace Antoncic, Oakland Catholic High School
  • Taya McCullough, Shaler Area High School

We would like to give a special shout out to our panelists: Jhenny Adams and Alyssa Rodibaugh (Contemporary Craft), Katilyn Mascatelli (Phipps postdoctoral scholar), Ashley Cecil (local artist and Phipps Artist in Residence), Jane Hyland (Carnegie Museum of Natural History), Leila Sai Srinivasan (Carnegie Mellon University) and Stephanie Lind (Phipps Adult Education Assistant). Thank you for lending us your expertise!

Have questions? Contact Emily Johns at or 412/622-6915, ext. 6936.

Developed by the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, Fl., and adopted by Phipps as a satellite partner in 2008, The Fairchild Challenge offers a menu of interdisciplinary challenges for grades 6 – 8 and grades 9 – 12, attracting students of diverse interests, abilities, talents and backgrounds. The Challenge empowers young people to engage in civic life and encourages them to become energetic and knowledgeable members of their communities.

Photographs taken by Phipps’ Science Education and Research staff.