The inaugural 2016 Innovation Challenge was a huge success. We thank every single finalist for coming in and sharing their work and competing for the initiative that will become a part of our biannual summit.
What if at the end of high school, students had mastered the process of launching something - a business, an idea, a social movement? What if they developed these skills by experiencing the process from concept to launch through actually prototyping ideas, products, businesses, movements? What if these students developed these skills while at a comprehensive town academy successfully serving students from mid-coast Maine and from around the world? The premise of Project LAunch is that we will launch successful innovators armed with critical design, engineering and communication skills.
The student-centered nature of this VR project dovetails perfectly with the mission of our school and our current work incorporating student-centered learning into our classroom and co-curricular offerings. Participants in the project will generate a concept, then film, develop and produce VR 360 Content. This will include video editing, production and writing, and video, sound and computer engineering. Students will have the opportunity to struggle with a real-world problem where there is no given solution, and will need to use the design process to create, revise, and share a project of their choosing. They will break a large design problem down into smaller steps, share the work involved in these steps, and identify, isolate and address prob-lems as they arise.
Plants have amazing adaptations and capabilities to provide benefits or negative impacts in an ecosystem. Native aquatic plants provide diversity, habitat, and help to filter and oxygenate water while invasive species compete with native plants for resources, decrease diversity and deoxygenate water through algae blooms and decomposition. These environmental issues are happening in our back yards in Maine. My 7th and 8th grade students at Messalonskee Middle School are aware of these issues because they live near or around the Belgrade Lakes and also learn about these topics in my science class using our school pond as a study site. The current and traditional methods to remediate polluted water bodies is to use chemicals or install piping into the waterbody to add oxygen back into the water. These two methods are highly expensive, controversial, and require yearly maintenance and often result in negative environmental impacts.
We are a team comprised of two 8th grade physical science teachers and an engineering technology teacher from Lincoln Middle School in Portland. Our school is ethnically and socioeconomically diverse in population. We have been the recipient of national, state, and local grants along with numerous in-kind donations from various local businesses to support STEM studies and projects to benefit our middle school students over the past 15 years. Paired with strong STEM foundations as well as design principles, we aim to give ALL our students, with their full range of interests, the direction to begin to view their world outside of the marketers’ boxes and to engineer usable, creative, beautiful solutions out of old technologies, current technologies, and even the boxes the shiny new gadgets were delivered in.
The Student Renewable Energy Lab will run in conjunction with our aquaponics greenhouse program. We are currently nearing completion of a full scale aquaponics systems housed in our greenhouse for year-round growing. We will use these systems as a permanent educational lab for our students. Students will have their education incorporated into every aspect of running and maintaining this system. Students will have lessons that will include skills and concepts in math, science, biology, botany, economics, and research methods. We will also incorporate concepts of production and bringing products to market providing invaluable business experience for our students.
“Put away your toys, it’s time to learn!” is an attitude that pervades most schools. The belief that learning and playing are fundamentally different often leaves the curiosity and engagement that students apply to their play at the schoolhouse door. The Building Blocks project aims to bring “toys” into the classroom to create challenge-based learning opportunities that will engage students in the iterative learning cycles of engineering and computer coding.