Build It Better Design Challenge

The Build It Better Design Challenge is a one-day startup competition that exposes high school students to the basic skills of entrepreneurship. In this challenge, participating students will be divided into teams, and supported by local experts who will guide the teams through essential stages, including planning, designing, building, and marketing. Final products will be evaluated by a panel of judges, and the members of the winning team will each receive “bragging rights” and an $80 scholarship.

This competition, including scholarships, was made possible through a partnership with Schools that Can, Manufacture NJ, and NJIT. At the local level, this challenge was brought to life through the work of Mr. Troy Long, Mr. Derrick Tandy, and Ms. Wanda Wormley, Ms. McDowell, and Ms. Dos Santos.

On June 3, 2016, we hosted this challenge here, for 26 of our most promising and creative 9th graders. And while, I can be accused of being biased in my reporting, I have copied the sentiments and perspectives of a complete outsider, Michael Marchetti, whose observations certainly matched what all of the observers saw.

This event was significant to me for a host of reasons. What struck me most, however, occurred at the very end of the event. When the winning teams were announced, I was focused on the teams. The winners literally jumped out of their seats. For me, this simple, spontaneous act spoke volumes. A host of questions were swirling in my mind, all day, about what these students were experiencing; were they learning, were they interested in the task at hand, what were the team dynamics, would they be successful in their efforts, did they care about the event, would everyone be engaged, would they tell their parents about the day, do they appreciate the efforts that went into this event? The questions went on, and on. The students' single, exclamatory act of jumping out of their seats helped to provide me with confidence that we might have hit a home run. It also generated another question, what's next?

These precious children must continue their experience, but how? How do we reinforce what happened in that gym on Friday? The answer to this question is what education is all about.

Alas, last Friday we did not hit a home run. I am proud to say, however, that we hit a solid triple. Only after we successfully answer the, "what's next?" question, can we legitimately lay claim to having hit the Grand Slam that we all seek.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this event. I hope that I can join each of you as we successfully seek an answer to the important question that now confronts us all.

So, why did the students jump out of their seats at the announcement of the winning teams? That answer is simple. It was a call for more.

Best, Mike

Each member of the winning team was awarded “bragging rights”, a cash prize of $80, and an invitation to a celebratory luncheon at NYU on Saturday.

Go Design Team!!!– led by Tandy, Long, and Wormley