Students in one of two Christopher Tolliver’s seventh grade classes at Dan McCarty School bested eight other school groups in this year’s Vaccine Gene Therapy Institute (VGTI) Academic Challenge. Nine classes from six schools competed in this year’s challenge posed by VGTI scientists in an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real-world lessons as students apply science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in contexts that make connections between school and real world problems facing society. In a video presentation to the students, scientists had seventh grade students identify a naturally occurring ecosystem with limited resources where one organism has established dominance over all others in consumption of these resources. Students determined a natural predator(s) and selected the most likely organism to be enhanced through selective breeding and genetic engineering to exert a population check on the dominant consumer. Students collaborated as a class to create PowerPoint presentations, backboards and videos to present their solution to the problem. Dr. John Schatzle , Director of Scientific Operations at VGTI, announced the best project in the scientists’ determination was from Toliver’s class entitled “The Lionfish Problem.” “This project had the most scientifically sound solution to the invasive species problem and utilized an indigenous species and introduced traits that wouldn’t affect the natural ecosystem or other organisms besides the invasive consumer,” Schatzle remarked. Tolliver also had another classroom present “The Rhesus Monkey Problem.” Other teachers who advanced STEM education in the classroom by participating in the challenge were Andrea Anicito from Forest Grove Middle School with “The Tegu” and The Cane Toad,” Thomas Balcer from Lincoln Park Academy with “ Deadly Little Lionfish,” Claudy Bois from Palm Pointe Educational Research School with “Attack of the Red Fire Ants” and “Everglades: A struggling Ecosystem,” Eric Johnson from Southport Middle School with “Control of the Burmese Python,” and Sean Lynch from WestGate K-8 with “The Lionfish Invasion.” Pictured, back row from left, are Michelande Eliassaint, Roberto Barrera, Louis Lopez, Janicia Larcher, Laurel Peterson, A’lexeairia Johnson, Rentavius Brice and Joana Magana. Front row, from left, are Jason Harless, Anastiastia Hillary, Marissa Perkins, Dwight Lazarro, and Yasmin Martinez. Team members not pictured include Davonte Hanna, Jaquelyn Macias, Jaslym Varela, and Quytaeja Frazier.