Gastineau elementary students help bring paper straws to Juneau

Marc Wheeler is treating the members of the Eaglebots (FIRST LEGO League team) to ice cream sodas using paper straws. Wheeler is switching from plastic to paper straws thanks to the project the Eaglebots did for this year’s FIRST LEGO League competition. (Courtesy photo)

The members of the Eaglebots, a FIRST LEGO League team in Douglas, sparked some interest in Coppa co-owner Marc Wheeler when he judged their project presentation at this year’s Juneau Robot Jamboree. As part of the FIRST LEGO League, teams of fourth- through eighth-graders are asked to solve a real-world problem based on an annual theme. This year, teams took on problems related to water as part of the hydrodynamics challenge.


After many planning sessions, the Eaglebots came up with the idea of keeping our oceans clean to help the fish and other wildlife. They did a lot of research on the existing pollution and how that affects the sea life as well as humans. They created a website with the help of Rebecca Watts with all their information as part of their presentation, made a video, picked garbage off the beach, and created a flier promoting the idea that restaurants in Juneau switch to paper straws.

After the tournament, Wheeler followed up with the team to find about more about where he could bulk order paper straws.

“I was really impressed by the team’s professional presentation and their practical solution to a real-world issue, plastic pollution in our oceans,” Coppa co-owner Marc Wheeler said. “Using paper straws is one small thing that all restaurants can do to help keep our oceans clean. Coppa is proud to partner with these students in their outstanding efforts.”

Thanks to the creative problem solving of the Eaglebots and Wheeler’s openness to their idea, three Juneau restaurants — Coppa, Zereldas, Gonzo, and Rainbow Foods — will now be using paper straws made by Aardvark Straws.

The Eaglebots hope that more community members will visit their website and learn more about plastics in our oceans:

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a K-12 program that inspires young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. FIRST activities in Alaska are coordinated by the Juneau Economic Development Council with major funding for provided by BP and Alaska Airlines.


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