This May, BioLite participated in the second annual Big Idea Week, an event created by Flocabulary founder Alex Rappaport aimed at exposing kids to the possibilities of real world problem solving and the power of thinking big.
This year BioLite showed up strong with five members of our team volunteering as mentors to the expanded ten-school program, reaching hundreds of 4th graders around BioLite’s home community of Brooklyn, New York. During the course of this week the kids got to meet professionals in a wide variety of fields.
It's hard for a kid to want to be an astronaut if no one tells them what an astronaut does.
The program kicked off with each mentor giving a brief presentation of his or her career and how they experience problem-solving daily in their job. This type of exposure not only showed kids a real-time application of how their education can impact their future, but it also showed them how many different kinds of opportunities all rely on creative thinking and collaboration. As one of our mentors Ryan put it, “It's really hard for a kid to want to be an astronaut if no one has ever told them what an astronaut does. Showing them what real world design and entrepreneurship looks like is the best motivation they can get.“
After the presentations were done, the imaginations started flowing.
Over the next several days, kids got together and applied their unique perspectives by coming up with practical (and sometimes not-so-practical) solutions. Mentors helped them prototype ideas and provided real-time feedback on their concepts.
Their ambition, their ideas, and their dreams are more grand than most adults...
Anton, a BioLite mentor, was struck by how uninhibited the students were: “They have yet to be told what can and cannot be done so their ambition, their ideas and their dreams are more grand than most adults. This confidence also showed in the way they answered questions. No matter how closely related or far from the subject the questions were the young entrepreneurs answered them without skipping a beat as if these were actual business plans they knew inside out.”
So what did the kids come up with? Some pretty impressive ideas...
Some of our favorite ideas were the ones that pointed to issues that needed solving in the community. "Senior Helper" was a phone service connecting elderly with young people for help in the home. "LR" stood for learn to read and was an advanced augmented reality app that helped children read a physical book with digital overlay of the definition of challenging words. “LUF” was a light up filter designed to help easily and cheaply provide purified water all over the globe.
"The World Finder" was a satellite guided tracking system that would help find missing children and family members. When asked about how the system would be powered one of the students explained solar power in similar words as Elon Musk recently used, the student said "the sun is like a giant nuclear reactor, but deadly".
Additional favorites include “The Cat Caller,” a robot that entertains your pets while you’re gone (note the “drawn closely to scale” detail): And, being an energy company ourselves, we have to give a special shoutout to the “Mooving Outlet:” A portable charging station disguised as a cow, using solar panels to generate electricity and regular outlets to access it.
Big Idea week was a mutually inspiring experience; students got to see cool jobs right in their backyard and our team was reminded and motivated by how uninhibited thinking can often see profoundly simple, yet powerful solutions. Just as the kids head back to the classroom with excitement and energy, we’re headed back to the lab inspired by what it means to dream big.
Stay tuned for next week when we reveal Big Idea Week - Part II: The BioLite Office Tour
Looking to use BioLite products in your own STEM education initiatives? Give us a shout. We're happy to share our experiences of what works.