Catna counters winter freeze with ingenuity


Josh Campbell

CHS9 student Arya Catna was selected as the Texas State Merit Winner. Catna was awarded for her research on a mulch blanket used to maintain proper conditions for plants, allowing them to thrive through harsh periods of weather.

Iniya Nathan, CHS9 Editor

Last February will be remembered for a record-setting freeze leading to power outages and pipe bursts; a desperate time filled with desperate temperatures. 

CHS9 student Arya Catna, then Coppell Middle School West eighth grader, noticed more than just people were impacted by the winter freeze: her plants were affected, too.

An avid gardener with an interest in environmental science, Catna decided to find a way to protect her plants from the next time frosty temperatures came her way. It took her a few months to do her research and record data before she came up with a rudimentary solution. She created a mulch blanket.

“[With my] initial research on types of soil and organic materials that are helpful to plants, contain moisture within the plants and pick the ideal temperature within plants, I found that wood chips are much better than soil,” Catna said. “They moderate the soil temperatures, control weeds and they’re overall really sustainable and more resistant to environmental stresses. So I decided to implement a solution that uses wood chips and realized that making a blanket with landscaping fabric was an easy way to [do so].”

Catna submitted her research and solution to the 2021 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and was selected as the Texas State Merit Winner. She attributes some of her success to all the people in school who supported her.

“All of my teachers were really supportive,” Catna said. “My science teacher encouraged people to participate in science fairs and competitions and encouraged people to do what they can to help the community positively.”

The people who know her are not surprised at her success. 

“Her creativity is out of this world,” CMS West science teacher Holly Millar said. “She’s very creative and innovative with her ideas. She could [just] think of something and be able to create it.”

Her mom, Ramya Kumar, is her strongest supporter.

“My [role] is providing whatever [Catna] needs and supporting her,” Kumar said. “It’s what I’m here for supporting her [and] the idea. Sometimes she just wants to bounce back ideas, [asking] ‘Should I try this?’ and [my response is] ‘Yes, go ahead, whatever you need.’ ”

Catna’s interest in environmental sciences and helping the environment started in middle school, and she currently volunteers for Keep Coppell Beautiful, affiliate of Keep Texas Beautiful dedicated to keeping Coppell green. However, science is not her only passion.

Catna has always been a strong artist, starting classes at the young age of 5. In the sixth grade, Kumar got the opportunity to display her art at the Valley Ranch Public Library. She currently is not taking art at school, preferring to hone her skills in her own time.

Her mulch blanket is currently a prototype, and she continues to work on it, currently looking into ways to create a blanket that can cover larger areas, although since school started that time has been limited to the weekends. She hopes to keep improving on her idea and help the environment with sustainable solutions.

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