EngineerGirl Essay Contest Winners Announced

Read the winning essay from this year’s EngineerGirl Essay Contest by a 5th grader from Boston. The subject was “Engineering and Animals.”

Reading Time: 4 minutes

EngineerGirl Essay Contest Winners Announced

engineer girlThe winners of the 2017 EngineerGirl Essay Contest have been chosen!  This year’s essay contest subject was, “Engineering and Animals.”  Contestants had to choose an animal that is ranked by the International Union for Conversation of Nature (IUCN) as either: vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered and describe how engineering might improve life for that species.  Take a look at past winners, and view the 2017 winners list!  All winning entries are posted on the EngineerGirl website. Follow EngineerGirl on Twitter: @EngineerGirlNAE

Winning Essay

Read the winning entry below and check out this link to read the other top essays:  2017 Winners

Meera Murthy, Grade 5

First Place:  Meera Murthy
Penguin Perch
Grade 5 – Kingsley Montessori School (BostonMAUnited States)

Dear Marco Lambertini-Director General, WWF international;

All animals are amazing.  So each time a species is listed on the IUCN Red List it truly breaks my heart.  One species that particularly strikes my attention is the Galapagos Penguins. I have been in love with penguins for as early as I can remember, so in first grade when my school librarian told me to pick from the new books she bought, “The Galapagos Penguins” was a natural pick.  I started to research them and found out all about their life, their habitat, their food and the threats to their environment. Ever since, I have tried to help them.  I built a web page to create awareness, have some lemonade sales money stashed away to send the WWF someday soon and even requested the school to see if I could do a fundraiser.

They live on the Galapagos Islands and are the only penguin species to live north of the Equator. These penguins suffer from changes in marine climate / El Nino effects. The resulting temperature fluctuations affect the availability of the food they eat and their ability to reproduce and survive.  The Galapagos Penguins also live within a small area with all the birds breeding at one single location. This is both good and bad; because any changes within this small zone affects the entire population. Other threats to their survival include predators like feral cats, dogs and rats which hunt for the eggs that the Galapagos Penguins lay and destroy them even before they hatch.  These factors all lead to reduction in their population size and make the Galapagos Penguins an endangered species.

Researchers and environmental scientists and engineers are doing a lot to help save these penguins. Some ideas which have been tested include high quality shady nest sites called nest condos which protect the penguins from the intense heat during breeding. One other project conducted by Dr. Boersma from the University of Washington in Seattle was to have tourists take photographs during visits; which were sent back to the University. Using these photographs researchers are able to identify the age and general health of the penguin population as well as know if penguins are molting, breeding or migrating.

My idea to help with increasing the chances of the survival rate of penguins is to work with electrical and computer engineers to build solar powered tents that look like the rocks the Galapagos Penguins would naturally use as a home for breeding. The inside of these solar tents would be automatically temperature controlled using sensors providing the right temperature for the incubation of the eggs. The tent would also have a small Wi-Fi enabled camera so conservation groups can monitor the eggs and penguins at all times.  The shape of the nest would mimic the current penguin nests and would be made from artificial lava rocks with solar panels on the outside. Researchers would benefit from the information generated from this idea and could work with other teams to come up with more ideas and solutions to save the penguins and check on predators. In addition, the marine ecological system will benefit from each native species and most importantly we can get penguins off the Red List!!

The Galapagos Islands are a highly protected area and I am not sure if having Wi-Fi on the penguin tents is going to pose a problem. However, I am sure we can solve this problem and make this idea happen by working together with a team of engineers, scientists and locals who know these animals well. Finally all ideas need money and for this I would work with the big camera companies like Leica and with large solar power companies to provide not only the funding and materials, but also the support resources for setting up and ongoing tracking of the penguins.

I am making this proposal to the WWF because you are my favorite organization which helps animals. In support I will have a fundraiser to raise money and I hope the WWF will help me too with some of the needed resources to build the penguin tents.


Bird Life International, The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, (1st October, 2016) Retrieved from

Vince Stricherz (19th October, 2010) Biologist hopes New ‘Condos’ will help Galapagos Penguins Stave off Extinction, Retrieved from

Increasing the Galapagos Penguin Population (February, 2016) Retrieved from

Galapagos Penguin (no date given) Retrieved from

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