High school Meets college in third annual innovation challenge

Portland State’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science is hosting its third annual High School Innovation Challenge on April 11 at University Pointe.

The PSU Innovation Challenge Competition is a student-driven event that allows high school students to explore their potential in engineering and design and how they might use those skills to create a better world.

This year’s competition theme is “Smart Cities: Making Our Urban Communities Safer, Healthier and Happier.”

High school students teamed up with PSU student mentors in early January to create eight competing teams. Each team was tasked with developing a prototype of a solution that addresses this year’s competition theme.

At the final event, the teams will present their ideas to a panel of judges. According to the PSU Innovation Challenge Competition 2015 Detail Sheet, they will be judged based on the criteria of Scope and Depth, Creativity, Presentation, Teamwork, Technology Focus, Human Impact and Audience Favorite. The winning teams will receive banners for their achievements.

Brad Scardino, a PSU student mentor, said the event is important because it introduces high school students to college-level thinking.

“They get to apply what they have learned…They have to use critical thinking more, and for many [this is] the first time—all the way from a problem statement to a proposed solution,” he said.
One goal of the event is to encourage the participation of women and students from backgrounds that are typically underrepresented in STEM disciplines.

Julie Rutherford, an organizer of the event and the Communications Director of PSU’s Masseeh College, described her philosophy for recruitment.

“The Innovation Challenge targets students who typically do not participate in STEM competitions,” she said. “It does this by demonstrating how the engineering design process and scientific method can be harnessed to better humanity. Studies indicate that this approach tends to encourage the participation of female students and students of color.”

Rutherford said the teams and event organizers are excited for competition day.

“You see this every year. Students start out nervous and shy about discussing their ideas,” Rutherford said. “By the end of the event they are actively engaging with the judge panel, audience members and one another. The energy is very exciting and seems to prove that the program is making an impact.”

She continued, “Even in such a short time, we’ve welcomed a number of Innovation Challenge students into the engineering and computer science programs as incoming students.”
Competition day is April 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at University Pointe.