Camden Hills Students Win Sustainable Energy Technology Competition and Look to Start a Local Business

Four Camden Hills Regional High School students won a sustainable energy technology competition and received a $15,000 grant to jumpstart their plans to replace polystyrene buoys with a sustainable mushroom-based product.

The students, Maggie Blood, Tula Bradley-Prindiville, Olivia Huard, and Laura Riordon, participated in a business internship through the Hatchery, Camden Hills’ innovation center that enables students to innovate, create, problem solve, and pursue their passions. They joined five other teams from the Energy Institute High School in Houston to participate in the Energy Project internship sponsored by the Puranik Foundation. Camden Hills instructor Danny Salomon, director of the Hatchery, served as the team’s advisor and mentor.

“Our mission is to reduce the amount of microplastics we consume and improve the health of us and our planet by reducing plastic floats with our mushroom floats,” the team said during their pitch to judges.

Throughout the internship, the students engaged in coursework on design-thinking, prototyping, marketing, and business planning, all the while perfecting their plans and pitch to a group of judges in April. The judges selected the Camden Hills group as the winners of not just a transformational grant but also a two-week trip to a sustainability school in India.

The team wanted to use the business and sustainability skills they were learning to address a local sustainability issue. According to the students, there are an estimated 6 million buoys in use off the coast of Maine, and more than 30,000 are lost every year. When these petroleum-based buoys break down, they can end up in the food chain and in our bodies.

Their alternative? A new business called Refoam Maine, which will grow buoys naturally, using the root system of mushrooms, known as mycelium.

“As a team, we approached the Energy Project challenge by trying to assess what area in our community needs innovation. When we looked around at Maine – through the lens of what looks bad for the planet — we saw a lot of Styrofoam. If you go walk on beaches or islands, there is polystyrene everywhere … we identified our ‘problem space’ to be expanded polystyrene breaking off of dock flotation units,” Laura Riordon told the Camden Herald.

During their pitch to judges, Tula Bradley-Prindiville told the judges “to think of our business like a mycelium network” with their strong team at the center and a network of local businesses, experts, non-profits, advisors, and students who they are connected to.

“We have grown and developed with connections to our community, helping us conceptualize and design our product. We have also received support from our school board, and the community at large which is what has driven us to pursue this research,” said Riordon. “This project, along with other Hatchery projects, have built a space at school for students to follow things they are passionate about while learning skills for how to make a real impact. Over the next few months, our team plans to research mycelium growth in 55 gallon drums, and then expand next school year working with more students and community members.”

According to the team, their prototype “will be applicable to a variety of ocean uses: docks, mussel farming rafts, and aquaculture mooring buoys being our most promising areas. The beauty of the product is that it’s not produced in a factory, rather it is produced in the team’s local shop. Once fully grown, and cooked to stop the growth, the buoyant skeleton is ready for takeoff in the ocean.”

The students were recognized by their School Board in May for their vision, leadership, and success in the competition, and told the Board they were focused next on perfecting their prototype and getting projects into the water for testing. They are also talking to local marine companies, which they hope will one day purchase and use their products. The students told the Board that even if they hadn’t won, they were committed to finding a way to turn their business ideas into reality.

The Refoam Maine team looks forward to advancing their product research within the Hatchery, with continued support from its mycelial network, and seeks to grow the business by on boarding more students interested in participating in this exciting venture starting next school year.

You can follow their journey on Refoam Maine’s Instagram page.

Photos courtesy of Camden Hills Regional High School

Maine DOE Seeks Public Comment for Social Studies and Science and Engineering Standards

As part of the scheduled periodic review of the Maine Learning Results, the Maine Department of Education is seeking public comments regarding the current social studies standards and science and engineering standards. These comments will inform the work of the standards revision teams.

The standards review process opens with a public comment and public hearing prior to the convening of teams that will review and revise the social studies and science and engineering standards. The public hearing will occur on March 21st, Burton Cross Building, 111 Sewall Street, Augusta, Room 103, from 3-5pm and is intended to give anyone the opportunity to weigh-in on the direction of future social studies and science and engineering standards in Maine. Anyone may speak at the public hearing. People wishing to speak will be asked to sign in and it will be helpful, but not mandatory, to provide a written copy of their comments.

Anyone unable to attend the public hearing may send written comments by 5 pm on April 6th, 2023. Written comments may be emailed to with the subject “Social Studies Standards Review” or “Science and Engineering Standards Review” or mailed to Maine Department of Education, attn: Beth Lambert, 23 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.

For further information about the standards review process contact Beth Lambert at


Media Release: Governor Mills Announces New Initiative to Bring Mobile Computer Science Labs to All Maine Schools

Governor Janet Mills today announced the launch of a new Maine Department of Education (DOE) initiative that will provide every Maine public school with a free mobile computer science lab. The effort, funded through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, will enable all Maine students to access high-quality learning experiences that provide real-word training in robotics, programming, augmented and virtual reality, coding, and hardware.

In July, Governor Mills joined governors from across the country in signing a bipartisan national compact on computer science education. As part of the agreement unveiled at the National Governors Association’s Summer Meeting in Portland, all 50 governors pledged to work to expand K-12 computer science education options in their states. The DOE has a comprehensive computer science education plan guided by seven key principles.

“Our economy increasingly depends on workers with training in computer science. This initiative will ensure that students across our state are prepared to succeed in the jobs of the future,” said Governor Janet Mills. “My administration will continue to make sure that all Maine students have a chance to acquire digital literacy skills.”

“Maine is leading the nation by providing equipment to our schools statewide to ensure that every student has a meaningful computer science education with real-world applications,” said Pender Makin, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education. “These mobile computer science labs will provide every student in Maine, across all grade levels and subject areas, with learning experiences that prepare them for future success.”

“This opportunity from the Mills administration and the Maine Department of Education is a game-changer for the students of Maine. For the first time, all Maine kids will have equal access to a high-quality computer science curriculum and tools in their schools. I am incredibly happy to see that equity is the centerpiece of this new initiative and cannot wait to see what happens next,” said Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Maine Chapter President and 8th Grade Computer Science Teacher Sean Wasson.

Schools will be able to order one of three mobile lab options: Robotics and Programming, Augmented and Virtual Reality, and Coding and Hardware. Each lab contains computer science equipment valued at $5,000 and is designed to be integrated into any content area and skill level. Additionally, the initiative will make available professional learning opportunities for educators tailored to each computer science topic area.

The Maine Department of Education is reaching out to Maine superintendents with detailed information about how to secure mobile labs for schools in their district. More information about each program area can be found on the Maine Department of Education website.

Portland Public Schools Unveils New Mobile Makerspace to Provide All Elementary Students with STEM and Technology Learning Experiences

Joined by students, educators, and community members, Portland Public Schools held a ribbon cutting last week at Rowe Elementary School for their new Mobile Makerspace which will bring immersive, project-based STEM and technology learning experiences to all Portland elementary students.

The Mobile Makerspace will travel to elementary schools for two-week visits this fall and spring. Once at the schools, students along with their classroom teachers will visit the Mobile Makerspace for mini or immersive experiences depending on their grade level. It will provide every PreK-5 student in Portland Public Schools with at least one design/innovation/engineering experience each year. One project example involves sail cars. Based on grade-level standards, students will be exploring properties of materials as they try to determine the best material, the best size, and the best shape for their sail. During their experience, students will employ the Engineering Design Process to guide their work – Asking – Imagining – Planning – Creating – Experimenting – Improving.

“We want our students to be scientifically and ecologically literate as well as technologically capable problem solvers. We want our Portland Public Schools students to not just be consumers of technology but creators. Through rigorous and engaging science education, our students will learn to be caring, active participants in the world and become equipped to comprehend, analyze, and create solutions to global issues. The Mobile Makerspace is one way that we are addressing this vision,” said Portland Public Schools STEM Director Brooke Teller.

At the ribbon cutting, a group of 5th grade students got to explore some of the high- and low-tech gear and opportunities contained in the Mobile Makerspace, including the 3-d printer, technology projects, books on STEM-related topics, and creative building opportunities.

“I am so excited and honored to be the mobile makerspace coordinator for Portland Public Schools. I get to bring STEM opportunities and engineering design challenges to Portland’s elementary students. And I get to do this at a time when research is telling us that our young learners should be engaged with science and engineering practices,” said Mobile Makerspace Coordinator Karen Shibles. “In addition to a focus on NEXT GEN science and engineering standards & practices, there will be an emphasis on those key 21st Century skills, also known as the 4Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.”

Portland Public Schools, in partnership with the Foundation for Portland Public Schools, worked with the community to design, build, and outfit this mobile lab. The trailer was secured from On the Road trailers, Blue Planet Graphics installed the artwork, and Casco Bay High School alum Charlie Hindall made the artwork.

“We believe that these mobile makerspace experiences will be a spark that ignites a student’s further curiosity and engagement with all that science, technology, engineering, and math have to unlock for them. We believe that these experiences will be brought back into the school buildings, and in conjunction with a district wide science curriculum, students will receive the joyful and just science education they deserve,” said Teller.

Panelist Opportunities for Maine Science Educators 

The Maine Department of Education is currently recruiting elementary (5th grade) educators and alternate participants (grades 8 and 3rd year of high school) to participate in an upcoming standard setting for the state’s science assessment, Maine (MEA) Science.

Maine educators and the DOE play a crucial role in the development of this assessment for students. No prior experience with standard setting or standard setting methodology is required however, panelists should be a science expert that teaches students who participate in the Maine Science assessment and have a thorough understanding of the assessed Maine Learning Results (MLRs) Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Participants must be able to differentiate between student performances at different levels of achievement. Standard setting panels consist of 10 educators per grade band (grade 5, 8, and 3rd year of high school).  Panelists will have the opportunity to discuss and determine application thresholds for Maine.

Current needs include:

  • Grade 5 – 4 Educators
  • Grade 8 – Alternates*
  • 3rd year of High School – Alternates*

*Alternates need to indicate they would be available should a panelist be unable to participate.

The standard setting is scheduled to take place from July 26th – 28th 2022 in Augusta. Travel, accommodations and expenses will be covered with a daily stipend provided to selected panelists.

Please consider applying or sharing the upcoming opportunities with colleagues. The expertise and contributions of Maine educators are a critical element of the continued development cycle for these assessments.

Interested? Complete the panelist registration survey. 

Want more information? Please reach out to Janette Kirk, Chief of Federal Programs at