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SHS Chosen to Participate in TASB Innovation Challenge

Three Smithville High School students gained valuable experience by competing in the student-led, project-based Innovation Challenge against teams from two other high schools. The competition is an activity that blends hands-on learning and collaboration between students and experts to solve real-world problems, according to host DLR Group.

Team members, Justin Dees, Michael Morriss and Courtney Haney, created and solved a real world problem and presented it to 60 professionals, according to SHS Principal Mr. Parker, with a turnaround time of about 40 hours. Mr. Wilmot was their teacher and mentor for the project.
Before the competition officially started, the teams each wrote up a real world problem which had to be solved in 30 years. These were then assigned to other teams. The topic the SHS team created revolved around learning valuable life skills in first world vs. third world countries.

SHS was assigned to “design a system of healthcare in the United States so that all citizens have access to equal, quality ‘free’ healthcare by 2030” regardless of a person’s financial and employment status. The team was allowed to research this topic the week before the event, but the main portion of creating the final report was done on site the day before the presentation.
Students had to consider not only problems and technology available today, but what life could be like in the future. Brainstorming and debating were huge parts of the process, according to Justin.

“We put a lot of our eggs in the basket of nanobots,” said Justin, but ensured that the system would still need doctors, nurses and other medical personnel.

With their research, assistance from mentors, including Dr. Garza, CEO of Seton Healthcare Family, the team proposed a 100 percent free healthcare system that did not include insurance.
“They found out that what people spend on insurance exceeds the cost of healthcare,” said Mr. Wilmot. “If that money was put towards care, the program would almost pay for itself.”

The premise was based mainly on preventative care and the ability to monitor healthy actions. Unhealthy foods and actions, such as smoking, energy drinks and lack of exercise, would be taxed so that the payments were small and ongoing rather than as a lump sum when a person was affected later in life.

The team found that having one nationalized healthcare system with centralized records also reduced costs and generated higher quality care.

On the final workday held in Austin, the hosts presented a twist. All teams, including two junior high teams, had to work together to see how they would handle, in their topic, a terrorist attack of toxic ink on money for an additional group report and presentation.

“This showed me what I really want to do,” said Justin. “I want to solve problems and advance technology. The Innovation Challenge really helped me to realize this. This was a lot more interesting way to learn.”

Prior to the event, the team worked for a week with sponsors to do problem solving activities, one of which included building a marshmallow/spaghetti tower with limited supplies. The SHS team built the tallest tower.

The event was part of the Texas Association of School Administrators/Texas Association of School Boards Convention held in early October.

“Though we got second place, we won in spirit,” said Justin. “We only lost by one point, but we still won in experience and knowledge gain.”
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