James Denman Middle School wins first place in sustainability competition

Students from Denman Middle School after winning 

the Future Trailblazer Challenge at TrailheaDX on May 30.

Life below water, responsible consumption and achieving food security -- these are some of the topics that middle school students from seven San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools presented at the first-ever Future Trailblazer Challenge, hosted by Salesforce.org, on May 30.

The students were brought on stage at TrailheaDX at the Moscone Center in a Shark Tank-style challenge, where the judges included Salesforce's co-founder Parker Harris and Chief Philanthropy Officer Ebony Frelix Beckwith.

The first-place winning team from Denman Middle School’s presentation “Scare Net” focused on protecting life below water. The students presented their idea to have boats with nets on the bottom that scoop trash from the ocean. Students explained that the boats would be able to communicate with each other if one’s net was full or if there was an emergency, like if the net got caught on a rock.

Student Brandon McKee added that the nets are decomposable, so if they get stuck or break off of the boat, they would decompose in under four years.

“We chose this as our goal because we went to the Marine Mammal Center and saw all these animals getting tangled in nets and eating trash thinking it was food,” student Jasper Brooke said. “We thought that was sad, and we wanted to try to fix it.”

Students winners from Denman Middle School.

For winning first place, the four students in Team Denman -- who prepared for the challenge in Ms. Gin's 6th Grade Coding Class -- received laptops and $5,000 for the school to go toward a Makerspace.

The Science, Technology, Math and Engineering (STEM) fields are some of the fastest-growing industries in the workforce today, and preparing students for STEM is a priority of SFUSD. SFUSD is the first large, urban school district in the U.S. to create a comprehensive pre-K to 12 computer science curriculum. 

Student participants enjoying their time at TrailheaDX.

The inaugural Future Trailblazer Challenge marked the culmination of a weeks-long coding curriculum to build solutions that address sustainable development goals and solve the area's most pressing challenges.

Throughout the month of May, students gathered daily in the classroom to learn the curriculum and create their vision of a sustainable future using cutting edge technologies like 3D printing.
On May 14, more than 200 students in teams presented their ideas at Salesforce's global HQ in San Francisco and the seven winning teams moved on to the finals on May 30.
Francisco Middle School won the popular vote among conference attendees.

Watch a video of the presentations.