Three adults and four students standing in the middle of a school gym, smiling. The students are holding miniature road signs with their names on them.

Orange County Recognizes Area Students for Science Project Focused on Types of Sandbags used in Natural Disasters

Community & Services

Four local ninth graders were recently recognized by Orange County Government’s Public Safety Director Danny Banks and Public Works Chief Engineer Mehul Parekh for qualifying for the national competition for eCYBERMISSION. The competition partners with the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program and the National Science Teachers Association and is designed to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in grades 6 through 9.

The group of students from Orangewood Christian School in Maitland, nicknamed themselves “the Sand Baggers.” They researched what types of sandbags were the most cost-efficient, biodegradable, durable and practical. The team put the sandbags through various durability tests to see how they would hold up in various natural disasters, such as hurricanes. The students found that the IKEA bag made of the material polypropylene was the most durable.

High school science instructor Debbie Waldheim had originally contacted Orange County Government’s Emergency Operations Center for guidance and feedback on the project since the County prepares for various disasters. For Hurricane Irma in 2017, Orange County Public Works distributed more than 123,000 sandbags to residents.

Banks and Parekh presented each participant with an Orange County-designed street sign sticker with each student’s name on it as well as tickets and prize packets courtesy of the Orlando Science Center.

In addition, Parekh spoke with the students afterwards and answered questions they had regarding their project so they could prepare for the national competition. Since the team ranked highly in the local and regional competition, they will compete in Washington, D.C. this summer at nationals.

Good luck to Orangewood Christian studentsHannah Hilal, Cindy Seifert-Ramirez, Abby Sloan and Dylan Robinson. We are rooting for the Sand Baggers!

Visit Orange County’s Flickr page to see additional photos of the team.

For more information on natural disasters and how to prepare for them, visit the Orange County Hurricane Expo on June 1, 2019 at Cypress Creek High School. More information available at

Photo Caption: Orange County Government recognizes top science students who qualified for a national STEM competition. [L-R] Orange County Public Works Chief Engineer Mehul Parekh, Orangewood Christian School High School Science Instructor Debbie Waldheim, Hannah Hilal, Orange County Public Safety Director Danny Banks, Dylan Robinson, Abby Sloan, Cindy Seifert-Ramirez.

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