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Students engineer ideas to help animals at Minnesota Zoo

March 10, 2023

During the week of March 6-10, teams of students from Eastview Elementary, Lakeview Elementary and Century Middle School participated in the Minnesota Zoo’s ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge Exhibition. The program challenges Minnesota students to create a solution to a real-world problem faced by zookeepers and staff at the zoo. The students created presentations outlining their solutions, which were displayed at the Minnesota Zoo.

This year’s challenge was to develop innovative enrichment activities for the zoo’s Malayan Tapirs. Zookeepers were looking for ideas to help keep the animals engaged and curious both on and off exhibit spaces while also encouraging natural behaviors like swimming and foraging with their trunks.

Students used the engineering design process learned in STEM and life sciences courses to develop their enrichment projects. Their solutions ranged from toys with speakers and lights for the tapirs to play with, toys with food inside for the tapirs to get at, and various massaging posts with bristles and textures for the tapirs to brush up against and relax. The top teams from across the state were selected to present their ideas to zoo staff and Flint Hills Resources engineers.

Eight teams from Lakeview, Eastview and Century were selected to be displayed at the Minnesota Zoo. Some of the teams won awards for their projects too! You can see all of their projects below. In each presentation, the students explained the problem, their research, the constraints they had to work with, their idea, the prototypes they built, any redesigns they needed to do, and the solution they came up with.

Eastview Elementary Presentations (5th grade)

Teacher: Mrs. Jennifer Noreault, STEM Specialist

Project: Bristle Massager

AWARD: 2nd place in Enrichment Design
Student Team:

  • Selena Pich
  • Vivian Keil
  • Kelly Hahs
  • Brynn Kane


Project: Food Express

Student Team:

  • Gavin Soukup
  • Bryn Miller
  • Lucy Peterson


Lakeview Elementary Presentations (3rd grade)

Teacher: Mrs. Dawn Coats, STEM Specialist

Project: Tuah’s Clubhouse

AWARD: Wolf Pack Award for excellence in teamwork
Student Team:

  • Abigail Yami
  • Nawal Mohamed
  • June Feichtinger


Project: Speakertive

Student Team:

  • Wade Wright
  • Natalia Schlueter
  • Maxwell Schomburg


Century Middle School Presentations (7th grade)

Teachers: Mrs. Jennifer Bolson and Mrs. Jessica Borsenberger, Life Science Teachers

Project: The Back Brushes and The Point

AWARD: 1st place in Enrichment Design
Student Team:

  • Sujay Kollepara
  • Sidd Raipati
  • Andrew Wells
  • Andrew Buckner


Project: Food Maze and Texture Board

AWARD: 3rd place in Enrichment Design
Student Team:

  • Elsie Kosobud
  • Quinn Carlson
  • Erin Pine


Project: Tasty Treat Ball and Soothing Broom

Student Team:

  • Reese Lockman
  • Alex Raines (not pictured below)


Project: Massage Center and Revolving Feeder

Student Team:

  • Jo Barlow
  • Nora Lumpkin