Virtual ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge Exhibition Week

Presented by Flint Hills Resources

March 15-19, 2021
#STEMattheZOO, #ZOOMS

The ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge offers students in grades 3-12 a chance to develop a solution to a real problem faced by zookeepers and staff at the Minnesota Zoo. This year, students were challenged to apply their science and math knowledge, creativity, and problem solving skills to engineer an innovative enrichment solution for the Minnesota Zoo’s red panda, Min, while encouraging natural behaviors and supporting zookeeper goals.

Of the 3,000 students that developed nearly 1300 enrichment design solutions, only 36 elementary, 33 middle school, and 15 high school projects were selected to give students the opportunity to present their design solutions to Zoo staff and Flint Hills Resources engineers during the Virtual ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge Exhibition week.

Best of luck to all ZOOMS student engineer presenters!

ZOOMS Design Challenge Exhibition Awards

A Message to All Exhibition Student Engineers

The Minnesota Zoo and Flint Hills Resources would like to wish a huge congratulations to all of our exhibition presenters and thank everyone for an incredible ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge Exhibition week! Zoo judges and Flint Hills engineers had such an amazing time connecting with students and were blown away by the thoughtful and intentional enrichment design solutions that were shared with us during the past few days. Working with animals at the Zoo requires daily use of STEM skills like problem solving, creativity, math, and engineering to ensure our animals are receiving the highest quality of care and every one of the students we heard from did an amazing job applying these same skills in their journey to solve this design challenge.

More importantly, the best solutions to challenges can come when working together to solve a problem. That is why we are so appreciative of your hard work in helping the Minnesota Zoo come up with a solution for Min. Who knows? Maybe some of you will use these same STEM skills someday to care for, protect, and save wildlife as future zookeepers, conservationists, or biologists. We are incredibly grateful to each of you for the passion you put into your design solutions for Min, and feel confident knowing you all are leading us into the future.

Each of you were invited to share your projects with us because your presentations stood out from nearly 3,000 projects across Minnesota and beyond. You all should be incredibly proud of yourselves and the work you have done to get to this level.

We are excited to share the winning projects for the ZOOMS Design Challenge Exhibition presented by Flint Hills Resources, including the Flint Hills Resources 1st Place Top Project Award. The students who receive this award will be receiving a household membership for their family to the Minnesota Zoo! All of our other student award winners will receive a pack of complimentary passes for admission to the zoo so they can come see Min in person.

Congratulations to each and every one of you!

ZOOMS Design Challenge Exhibition Elementary Winners

 

Flint Hills Resources Top Project
 1st Place:  Enrichment Design
Valley Crossing Elementary

Project Name: The Multi-Wreath
Project # : 29
Students: Grace Zhang, Rachel Doran,
Ali Jorgenson, Keira Jorgenson

2nd Place Enrichment Design
Valley Crossing Elementary

Project Name: Graper Paper
Project # : 28
Students: Alaina Vogt, Sophia Sutherland, Amelia Arnold

 

3rd Place Enrichment Design
Forest Hills Elementary

Project Name: Akshaya’s Masterpiece for Min’s enrichment
Project # : 3
Student: Akshaya Ramanujam

 

Innovation Award
Eastview Elementary

Project Name: The MINesoTOY
Project # : 13

 
Conservation Award
Avail Academy

Project Name: Red Panda Min's New Jungle Gym
Project # : 2

 
Wolf Pack Award
STRIDE Academy

Project Name: Moveable Treat Bush
Project # : 24
Students: Madilyn Steckelberg, Damien Hill,
Anzal Omar, Axel Ramirez

 
Zookeeper Award
Visitation School

Project Name: The Min Ball 101
Project # : 6
Students: Anna Lloyd, Olive Norman

 

ZOOMS Design Challenge Exhibition Middle School Winners
Flint Hills Resources Top Project

1st Place: Enrichment Design

Owatonna Middle School

Project Name: Break-in Box and Cooling Box

Project # : 30
Student: Heather Walker

2nd Place Enrichment Design
Zimmerman Middle School

Project Name: Jellycombs & Jelly Log

Project # : 18
Student: Lily Johnson

 

3rd Place Enrichment Design
Owatonna Middle School

Project Name: Wood treat box and grape vine ice ball

Project # : 33
Student: Phoenix Storm


Innovation Award
Davinci Academy of Arts and Sciences

Project Name: Zooms, The Red Panda

Project # : 27

 

Conservation Award
Davinci Academy of Arts and Sciences

Project Name: The Red Panda Reimagined

Project # : 25
Students: Ruchira Prasad, Seno Okon,
Ava Schaible, Reeha Ibrahim

 

Wolf Pack Award
Davinci Academy of Arts and Sciences

Project Name: Red Panda Enrichment

Project # : 13
Students: Kaitlyn Palzer, Tenzin Tsekyth

 

Zookeeper Award
Cedar Ridge Elementary

Project Name: The Jellyfish/The Breakfast Ball

Project # : 23

 

ZOOMS Design Challenge Exhibition High School Winners
Flint Hills Resources Top Project 
1st Place: Enrichment Design

School of Environmental Studies

Project Name: Teeter Totter and Cooling Den

Project # : 13
Students: Mallory Benda and Team

2nd Place Enrichment Design

School of Environmental Studies
Project Name:  Jelly Hive and Burrow Bar

Project # : 12

 

3rd Place Enrichment Design

School of Environmental Studies
Project Name: Frozen Grape Juice and Kiddie Pool

Project # : 16


Innovation Award

Cretin-Derham Hall
Project Name: Min's Cooling and Treat Center

Project # : 5

 
Conservation Award

Cretin-Derham Hall
Project Name: Min's Activity Ball & Cooling Hammock

Project # : 9

 
Wolf Pack Award

School of Environmental Studies
Project Name: Bridge and Hay Ball

Project # : 14
Students: Katherine Vandelac and Team

 

Zookeeper Award

Academy of Whole Learning
Project Name: Get your mind in the game!

Project # : 11

 

Welcome to the ZOOMS Design Challenge Exhibition!

A special message from Governor Tim Walz.

A special message from John Frawley, Director of the Minnesota Zoo & President of the Minnesota Zoo Foundation.

A special message from Geoff Glasrud, Vice President and Manufacturing Manager, Flint Hills Pine Bend Refinery.

ZOOMS Exhibition Week Schedule

March 15

Judges Evaluate Pre-Recorded Presentations

March 16

Student Presenter Orientation

Virtual Judging All Day

March 17

Student Presenter Orientation

Virtual Judging All Day

March 18

Student Presenter Orientation

Virtual Judging All Day

March 19

ZOOMS Award Winners Announced

Student Project Gallery

Check out the innovative enrichment design ideas that students developed for the Minnesota Zoo’s red panda this year!

Elementary Schools

Middle Schools

High Schools

ZOOMS Exhibition Participating Schools

Elementary (Grades 3-5)

Avail Academy
Cedar Ridge Elementary
Eastview Elementary
Eden Prairie Online Academy
Eisenhower Community School
Forest Hills Elementary
Garlough Environmental Magnet School
Holy Spirit School
Kamali'i Elementary
Lakeview Elementary
La ola del lago
Longfellow Elementary School
Middleton Elementary
Oak Point Elementary
St. Wenceslaus School
STRIDE Academy
UMN Extension, Paws and Pals 4-H Club
Valley Crossing Elementary
Visitation School
Woodcrest Spanish Immersion

Middle School (Grades 6-8)

Cedar Ridge Elementary
Davinci Academy
Eisenhower Community School
Owatonna Middle School
St. Peter Claver
UMN Extension, Paws and Pals 4-H Club
Zimmerman Middle School

High School (Grades 9-12)

Academy of Whole Learning
Cretin-Derham Hall
School of Environmental Studies
UMN Extension, Paws and Pals 4-H Club

About the ZOOMS Enrichment Design Challenge

As one of the most beloved animals at the Minnesota Zoo, Min can often be found resting on her favorite tree branch in her Tropics Trail habitat that she shares with two Transcaspian urials. Described as sweet and shy, Min has been a challenge to provide enrichment for as she has shown minimal interest and hesitates to explore anything when the two urials are near. Zookeepers have identified five goals for Min that they have asked students to help achieve through an innovative and engaging enrichment device as part of the ZOOMS Design Challenge. These goals include:


- Increasing her activity levels
- Encouraging her to explore more of her habitat
- Helping her gain the confidence to explore enrichment around the urials
- Finding a better way to cool down in the Tropics humidity
- Helping Min through the transition of transferring to the Northern Trail to share the Sichuan takin exhibit as detailed in the new master plan

While considering these goals and Min’s individual needs, students were challenged to have their enrichment design encourage natural behaviors to ensure she stays happy, healthy, and mentally engaged.

Meet "Min" the Red Panda

Min’s Bio

Female
Weight: 17 lbs.
Born Jun 25, 2011 - she is 9 years old
Born at a zoo in Oklahoma, and was transferred to the Minnesota Zoo in 2012.
Currently, Min shares her enclosure with two Transcaspian Urials and is found on the Tropics Trail.
Min is sweet, but shyer and more stand-offish compared to other red pandas zookeepers have worked with. It takes a while to build her trust and she is most comfortable training with her favorite zookeeper, Melissa.

Min’s Preferences

Favorite Food: She is a sucker for grape jelly or grape juice, but turns her nose up to the organic version. She also loves her leaf eater diet.
Favorite Place to Relax: You can often see Min perched on her favorite high branch so she can drape her legs around to take a nap.
Favorite Enrichments: She most enjoys pine boughs hung behind the scenes and a trail of smeared jelly throughout her habitat. Zookeepers also often offer her children’s play toys, fun chalk drawings, browse, a large plastic bobbin, mirror, grapevine balls, and traffic cone.
Dislikes: When horticulture staff waters the tropical plants near her exhibit. While it is a quick process, Min circles around her habitat to show her disapproval of what is happening.
Least favorite enrichment: Most everything else! She doesn't interact with enrichment very much.

Caring For Min at the Minnesota Zoo

Hear more about Min and her history at the Minnesota Zoo directly from Min’s most trusted zookeeper for training, Melissa!

Help Save Red Pandas

Red Pandas in the Wild

Join Zookeeper Adam right in front of the red panda habitat on the Tropics Trail as he shares more about the natural history of red pandas in the wild.

Red Panda Conservation

Red pandas live in montane forests of Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, and Nepal. They rely on thick bamboo understories because they depend on bamboo for 98% of their diet.

Threatened with habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation, red pandas are considered an endangered species. Red pandas may also face threats from canine distemper virus, as they increasingly come into contact with unvaccinated domestic dogs. Poaching of red pandas is also a problem, as demand is increasing for the pet trade and for other purposes, such as traditional medicines and meat.

It is estimated there may be less than 10,000 left in the wild.

What is the Minnesota Zoo doing?

The Minnesota Zoo has supported Red Panda Network’s Forest Guardian Program. Forest guardians monitor and protect red panda habitat, as well as educate their communities about the importance of the red panda to their future.

The Minnesota Zoo, in conjunction with several other North American zoos, also participates in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) for red pandas. The Red Panda SSP helps manage and improve the lives of captive populations in North America, and through research, education, and conservation activities work to help preserve red panda populations in their natural habitat.

It is estimated there may be less than 10,000 left in the wild.

What is Enrichment?

Animals in zoos do not have the same opportunities for physical and mental stimulation that wild animals do, so zookeepers provide the animals with objects or changes to their environment that will stimulate the behaviors of healthy wild animals.

Enrichment gives animals something to think about, encourages exercise, and gives animals a degree of control of their environment by giving them choices. Basically, enrichment helps keep life interesting and challenging.

Enrichment can come in a variety of forms including environmental, novelty, sensory (scent and sound), behavioral training, dietary, and social.

Hear about what it takes to enrich animals like the red panda at the Minnesota Zoo.

• Providing live and artificial plants for shade and barriers
• Using trees, ropes, or rock work to increase and enhance living space
• Using puzzle feeders that offer a challenging method of obtaining food
• Housing a variety of compatible animals from the same habitat together
• Applying scents (spices, food, animal-lure, dung) around an exhibit
• Simulating or using real prey items in predator exhibits to encourage stalk-and-chase behaviors
• Playing predator or prey sounds to encourage instinctive responses

Check out the videos below of our animals having fun with enrichment!

Virtual Minnesota Zoo Visit

Explore the Minnesota Zoo virtually through videos of fun animal encounters, zookeeper talks, and take a peek behind the scenes to stay connected with our animals and staff!

Join the ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge, presented by Flint Hills Resources, next school year!

If you are a grade 3-12 teacher looking for ways to engage your students in authentic integrated STEM, join the ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge presented by Flint Hills Resources next school year! Participation is completely free! Teachers will receive access to free training, design challenge supporting curriculum resources for both in person and digital learning, and ongoing implementation support throughout the school year from Zoo education staff. Registration will open for the 2021-2022 school year this spring.

If you missed out this year, follow us on Minnesota Zoo for Educators Facebook Page and sign up for the MNZOOEDU Times to be notified when registration opens and to hear about the latest Zoo education news and events for educators.

For more information on the ZOOMS Design Challenge visit Here.

Visit mnzoo.org

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