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Students compete to design better communities at UCC-hosted competition

Thirty-three teams from 27 Conference of Independent Schools of Ontario members convened in Upper Canada College’s Weston Hall on Feb. 2 to take part in the CIS Ontario Future Design Challenge.

Teams of three students from Grades 6 to 8 and a teacher were invited to find solutions with regards to leveraging innovative technology to solve a meaningful problem in the local community. Among the problems considered were pedestrian safety and improving access to healthy food. The teams then had to pitch their ideas in a competition.

“The event showcased the creative power of our students and reaffirmed that they have great potential to make a difference in our world,” says UCC Prep science teacher Kerry Dupuis, who oversaw a team comprised of Raymond Liu, A.J. Shulman and Jack Guilfoyle.

UCC’s other team was made up of history teacher Geoffrey Mohtadi and students John Voudouris, Nate Finney and Marshal Wang.

d2The CIS Ontario Future Design Challenge was facilitated by the Toronto-based Future Design School, which was launched by entrepreneur Sarah Prevette to provide students with education programs that empower creative leadership and innovation. The event’s goal was to introduce students to design thinking and innovative problem-solving methods that foster critical thinking and compassion.

Faculty members led workshops to introduce the students to design thinking, which involves identifying a problem, gaining user feedback about it, and coming up with solutions.

“The teams were asked to brainstorm solutions, critique the solutions and then develop an elevator pitch to convey the problem they addressed and an innovative app to address the problem,” says Dupuis. “The apps were only in concept and were not created.”

Pitches from Holy Name of Mary College School, Montcrest School, Elmwood School, UCC and The Bishop Strachan School were all chosen as finalists, and The York School was named the winner of the CIS Ontario Future Design Challenge.

d3The York School team won a trophy, bragging rights and enrolment for its students in summer programs at Future Design School. The faculty lead received further professional development opportunities.

Compassion and empathy development was the focus earlier in the day when Marcy White told the story of her son Jacob Trossman, who was born with a rare and incurable neurodegenerative disease. Even though it left him without movement, he still had very sharp and active cognitive abilities. Kaela Shea and Sarah House from Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital spoke about their work in creating interactive systems that allowed Trossman to communicate via a computer simply by blinking.

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