9th Grade Student Wins STEM Award

Congratulations to 9th grader Benjamin Pochurek, who recently won Maine Public’s “Age of Nature High School Student Challenge” for excellence in STEM. The contest, which was cosponsored by The Nature Conservancy, the Maine Education Association, and the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, invited high school students to submit any kind of multimedia—from poetry to sculpture–that explores the world around us. His project, “Climate Change Indicator No. 14: Tarpon Season Opens in Maine” is a wooden and metal sculpture that represents the threat of climate change and rising temperatures in the Gulf of Maine, which is one of the fastest warming bodies of water on the planet.

“Having myself migrated from Florida to Maine, I believe that artistically depicting my favorite southern fish’s migration to our waters illustrates the great risk of climate change,” Pochurek told Maine Public Radio’s Age of Nature. “Additionally, I decided to construct the piece out of found metal and debris to symbolize pollution’s impact on aquatic life.”

The ever-crafty Pochurek taught himself how to weld last spring as he looked for ways to stay busy during quarantine. Combined with his experience in Maine Coast Waldorf’s woodworking studio, the tarpon began to take shape.

Created through woodworking, soldering, riveting, and welding pieces of wood and metal together, with a focus on scientific and aesthetic accuracy, no detail was left untouched. The head is made out of pine, the eyes incorporate wire mesh, while the ribs are made of repurposed rake tines.

He says the concept is intended to be a slightly more light-hearted way of looking at a serious problem. “As improbable as the idea of tarpon fishing in Maine may seem, it is not too far-fetched considering what is happening around the world. I hope that this piece motivates us all to respect and protect our environment.”

The Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance described the project as “a feat of engineering with close attention to accurately depicting the anatomy of a tarpon.” They were most impressed that the project “weaves together skill, creativity, a tangible example of climate change, and Benjamin’s own story.”

You can see more of Ben’s work on his Etsy site.

Way to go, Ben! The Maine Coast community is proud of you!