Nome students’ animal alert and snow blower snow cones ideas win statewide prizes

innovative Nome kids
Denali Walrath and Bradley Rowe were winners at the 2023 Alaska Innovation Competition in Fairbanks. (Courtesy Doug Walrath)

A pair of Nome students were recognized this past weekend in Fairbanks for projects they entered in the Alaska Innovation Competition.

Denali Walrath and Bradley Rowe took part in the competition, with Walrath taking first place in the Cub Division (12 years old and under) with her “Animal Alert” app idea. As one of the top finishers, Walrath’s award included $500 cash and a $2,000 contribution to her Alaska 529 college savings plan.

Walrath is a fifth grader at Anvil City Science Academy. She says she came up with the idea last year, while picking berries with her family in Nome. The app would alert users if a dangerous animal like a bear or musk ox had been spotted recently at a specific location.

“I first got the idea when there was attacks,” Denali Walrath said. “There was a person who got attacked walking to Nome Elementary School, and that really made me think of the actual idea for that alert, to alert them of the animal.”

Denali’s dad, Doug, says she will get assistance from university students and faculty to patent the app, code it and release it.

“It’s an ideas competition, so, when she finished, she was speaking with some of the faculty at UAF in the engineering department,” Doug Walrath said. “They noted how they would have undergraduate students or graduate students that could work with her in the future doing the programming, the coding department, skills an 11-year-old just doesn’t have.”

Rowe, a second grader at Nome Elementary School, took Honorable Mention in the division for his renewable snow cone machine idea. His idea involves a machine that churns up fresh snow using snowblower blades, pulls the snow into the machine, rolls it into balls, puts them into snow cone cups and adds the flavoring on top.

Rowe’s dad, Russell, explained how Bradley was encouraged to take on the project – to make snow days more enjoyable.

“It was presented to him through Nome Elementary School,” Russell Rowe said. “His STEM class presented the idea to him to join this competition, and he had an idea to make a snow cone machine. The idea was to make snow days fun for everyone across the state.”

The competition began in 2009 and makes awards of $45,000 in cash and prizes each year. Ideas do not need to be Arctic-related, it’s free to enter, and individuals and teams of all ages can compete.

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