When schools shut down in early March, the students from Shady Grove Middle School had completed only three out of their five scheduled visits to KID Museum as part of the Invent the Future Challenge. By that time, they’d learned about the design process, engineering and coding techniques, and how to apply the “mind of a maker” to solve an environmental problem. Just as they were ready to begin building their prototypes, everything came to an abrupt halt.
The May 9th Challenge Summit, where last year over 800 students showcased their inventions to the community, was also canceled. But teacher Jess Rowell wasn’t going to let that stop her. Demonstrating the perseverance and creative problem-solving that is at the core the Invent the Future Challenge, Jess and her students developed a plan to continue working on their projects for their own virtual Summit, named “Re-Invent the Future.”
Here’s how Shady Grove Middle School students “Re-Invented the Future” on May 9, 2020.
“Distance learning can feel very isolating for students,” explained Dr. Alana Murray, Principal of Shady Grove. “So this opportunity provided students with the ability to connect with their peers on topics that they care a great deal about.”
Since the students never had the chance to build physical prototypes, Ms. Rowell focused on idea development and communication skills: students were to flesh out the problem they wanted to solve, explain how their solutions would fix that problem, and how they would build their designs if given the opportunity: “This project has tangible gains in communication skills as well as intangible benefits like group connections and collaborative problem-solving,” said Ms. Rowell.
On May 9th, the Shady Grove students presented their designs in a virtual showcase event attended by parents, KID Museum staff, and school officials, including Dr. Murray, and Scott Murphy, Director of Secondary Curriculum at MCPS. Each student presented a flipgrid of their designs, explaining how their inventions would work, and the iterative design process they went through to get there.
“It’s a great feeling that I’m adding to the world and changing how we live,” said Diana, an eighth-grader who designed a new kind of eco-trash collecting truck. “This experience changed my perspective on how we can help people. From the littlest things we can do like picking up trash in the street, to something as big as designing a new kind of trash truck.”