NSBA’s Annual Conference is always teeming with activity and energy, but for the last three years, a special burst of youthful exuberance has come courtesy of the DLR Group Student Innovation Challenge.
The lively and demanding applied learning competition was created to showcase how students can engage in active learning and collaborative teamwork while addressing real-world problems creatively, said Pam Loeffelman, an education planning and design expert with DLR Group, an integrated design firm.
“It’s about putting learning on display and understanding that process,” Loeffelman said.
DLR sponsors the project because “it really believes that design can elevate the learning experience,” she added.
By helping educators and learners explore project-based learning, and having school board members see it in action, everyone becomes “more educated about the possibilities of real world problem-solving,” said Taryn Kinney, another DLR education planning and design specialist.
For the competition, four teams of ninth-graders randomly selected two career and technical education (CTE) career clusters from the 16 recognized CTE pathways and were instructed to research them in terms of trends, concerns, and new developments.
To ramp up the challenge, teams were told to conduct their research and presentations against a backdrop of colonizing Mars in 2050.
Students didn’t have to limit their research to traditional resources. Many contacted topic experts as well as interviewed school board members attending conference and vendors in the exhibit hall for input and suggestions.
The four teams in this year’s challenge and their CTEs:
Marana Unified School District (Tucson, Arizona): Medicine & Transportation/Distribution
Cherry Creek School District (Greenwood Village, Colorado): Government & Public Education & Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources
Klein Forest School District (Houston, Texas): Information Technology & Hospitality/Tourism
Thompson School District (Loveland, Colorado): Architecture/Construction & Public Safety
During final presentations Sunday, a jury awarded a tie win to Marana and Cherry Creek, saying their scores were so very close and they both excelled in different ways with their research and presentations.
The winners earned $1,000 each to split evenly between their four team members.
The jury praised Thompson for its creative video newscast presentation and extensive interviews of conference attendees; Klein for its inventive and intelligent information about RFID and Brain Telepathy; Cherry Creek’s research and use of humor; and Marana’s comprehensive and data driven presentation.
All four teams received a donation of the brightly colored Artcobell furniture pieces that decorated the Innovation Challenge workspace at Annual Conference.