The team meeting Representative Farr
group of Carmel students has made waves from the Pacific Ocean to the
group, Team pHFine Scale, accepted an invitation to showcase its
professional, international competition-tested ocean sensor at the
launch of the bipartisan Congressional Prize Caucus on Oct. 6 in
High seniors Jack Maughan, Benek Robertson, Ethan Miller and Ethan
Kurteff — also members of the CHS robotics team — will make the
is a terrific opportunity for the team to discuss and highlight their
stories, ideas and technologies with policymakers, key congressional
staff and the D.C. innovation community,” said Lisa Walder, the
team’s project manager and Maughan’s mother.
Maughan was a sophomore, he heard about a special competition: The
Wendy Schmitt Ocean Health XPrize. The international challenge sought
the most accurate and affordable way to measure ocean acidification
with breakthrough ocean pH sensors.
it had two million-dollar purses.
used all his savings to pay the entry fee and compiled the team.
the work was underway, no other XPrize participant faced more than
the CHS teens: They balanced a heavy academic workload,
extracurricular activities and part-time work while building the
sensor, creatively finding solutions with each step.
unlike the other participants, they weren’t getting paid to build
went into the first competition with the resin on the outside of our
sensor not completely dry,” Maughan said. “We spent months and
months of late weekend nights trying to get the thing working
correctly. In the last month there were plenty of all-nighters spent
in the final rush.”
pHFine Scale succeeded at the trials held at the Monterey Bay
Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing. Out of 77 groups, Team
pHFine Scale was one of only 14 to qualify for the next phase in
the Seattle Aquarium, they were up against international experts in
the field and, again, their sensor performed strongly. But it did not
deliver a complete data set and they fell short of the prize.
Washington D.C. invitation, however, is quite the consolation.
showed perseverance and ingenuity by quickly developed a working
ocean pH sensor,” said Matt Huelsenbeck, the prize manager for
XPrize, which invited the team to Washington D.C.
problem of ocean acidification happens when increased carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere results in more acidic water, and the seawater’s
pH level drops.
our sensor made us all realize how serious the problem of ocean
acidification really is,” Kurteff said. “It’s important to
quantify environmental issues like this, and we made it our mission
to create a device that could provide the scientific data necessary
to convince people of the gravity of human impact on the
pHFine Scale hopes to market the sensor as an inexpensive, accurate
tool to help solve such a significant problem in the world’s
certain aspects of the competition pHFine Scale’s device was even
able to outperform some leading research institutions, surprising
some of the expert validators,” Huelsenbeck said. “They are true
innovators with a can-do spirit and a bright future ahead of them.”
member is preparing for a future in STEM (science, technology,
engineering and mathematics).
serves as the team’s technical lead; Kurteff oversees the sensor’s
calibration to get accurate data; Robertson manages the sensor’s
packaging to keep the interior electronics safe underwater; Maughan’s
sister, Caroline, led marketing and fundraising until she graduated
from CHS in 2014 and then their younger sister, Bridgett, filled in;
and Miller joined later to head the team’s product development in
the hopes of selling the sensor.
team built the sensor in Maughan’s garage and used their background
knowledge gained from their own research, the robotics club and CHS
teachers such as Paul McFarlin (robotics club), Tom Clifford
(computer science) and Michael Guardino (chemistry).
pHFine Scale “is an inspiration,” Guardino said. “They
engineered a practical solution to a scientific problem and should be
recognized for their hard work.”
the team wants to promote STEM for others as well.
want to convince young people to put themselves out there, to take
risks in business and STEM,” Kurteff said. “Even you don’t make
it at first, you’ll gain more than you could imagine.”
Miller: “D.C. will help us get the message out, the message of
youth in STEM. We feel like STEM needs fresh minds right now.”