DLR Group Innovation Challenge

High school freshmen researched and proposed solutions to one of the biggest issues in schools today -- safety and security -- in this year’s DLR Group Student Innovation Challenge at the NSBA’s Annual Conference in San Antonio.

This is the fourth year that DLR Group, the K-12 school facilities design firm, has sponsored the project-based and inquiry-based learning experience, live at Annual Conference.

As school building designers, DLR Group is invested in “looking at the future of learning and what that’s going to bring,” says project leader Taryn Kinney. “Buildings last a long time; they have to be able to support the learning coming down the road.”

But knowing the various constraints that districts often face, financial and otherwise, the Challenge offers an opportunity to “model innovative learning, collaboration, and teamwork without those limitations,” Kinney says.

“From our position, we see great examples of learning all the time,” says DLR’s Raechel French. “Our goal is to expose even more school leaders to what that learning could look like.”

As with past Challenges, teams of ninth-graders randomly selected two career and technical education (CTE) career clusters from the 16 recognized pathways and were instructed to research them in terms of trends, concerns, and new developments to solve a problem.

To ramp up the challenge, the three four-member teams were told to conduct their research and presentations against a backdrop of being assigned to a task force to address safety and security in the year 2030.

Students didn’t have to limit their research to traditional resources. Many interviewed school board members attending conference and vendors in the exhibit hall, and conducted a Skype interview with an international aid worker in Kabul, Afghanistan. DLR Group professionals also served as mentors and team guides throughout the process.

In this year’s surprise twist, teams had the added challenge of joining forces to create a United Nations-like collaborative organization.

“One thing we’ve learned is how much students love the opportunity to meet other students and work together,” Kinney says.

The three districts participating in this year’s challenge represented: San Antonio Independent School District; College Station Independent School District; and Lockhart Independent School District, all of Texas.

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