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School Innovation Challenge: Enabling Students as Problem Solvers

How Telangana School Innovation Challenge laid a pathway to empower students as problem solvers by creating a collaborative environment: Our Experiences

Basheera, a 9th class student from Nalgonda redesigned the wheelchair into a height-adjustable one to help her father who has been paralyzed for a year. A student team from Warangal Rural has observed that water supplied through the mission Bhagiratha is getting wasted at the taps so they created an automatic tap system that reduces water wastage (Bindhe theesthe Bandh aaye!).

One more student team from Jogulamba realised that small actions at school can have an impact on our thoughts and developed an idea, Make a Change to help students to cope up with mental health...

Basheera and Team presenting Adjustable Wheel Chair prototype

Telangana School Innovation Challenge 2020 is filled with innumerable stories of observation, inquiry, and innovation. Listening to students about their innovations and stories behind these innovations was truly inspiring… it reflected how empathetic they are. Children were able to identify the problem, contextualize it, discuss among themselves, connect the dots with concepts they learned in schools, or self-learn new concepts - all to develop solutions for the problems they see. This whole experience has proved how innate empathy, curiosity, and creativity are and how innovative ideas from children can foster exponentially if we - like schools, educators, and parents - provide the right support and environment for their creative potential to flourish.

Students being engaged in prototyping sessions

We believe that every child can be a problem-solver. The idea of the School Innovation Challenge is to inspire students to solve problems by using a simplified design thinking process as a method to innovate. Each participating team underwent a hands-on animated course on problem-solving followed by a call for submission of ideas in prototype or drawing form. They accessed this content via a specially designed learning management system for the mobile phone.

Due to the collaborative efforts of the Telangana government, Telangana State Innovation Cell(TSIC), UNICEF, and Inqui-Lab Foundation, 23,881 school students and 4,510 teachers from 4041 government schools across 33 districts of Telangana were able to participate in the School Innovation Challenge 2020. A total of 7093 innovative ideas were submitted by the students as part of the challenge aiming to solve problems across diverse problem categories. 25 ideas were selected out of this pool of ideas and these student teams turned their ideas into functional prototypes with in-person mentorship. These functional prototypes were showcased as part of the grand finale that took place on 4th, January 2021 in the presence of Hon’ble Minister for Information Technology Shri K. T. Rama Rao Garu and Hon’ble Minister for Education Smt. Sabita Indra Reddy Garu. The Top 10 ideas selected by the jury were given awards and eligible for further mentorship and prototyping support.

Hon’ble Minister Shri K.T.Rama Rao garu and Hon’ble Minister Smt.Sabitha Indra Reddy Garu reviewing Crowd Sensor Alarm prototype

Beating the challenges posed by the pandemic, the active participation of teachers, District Education Officers, and District Science Officers of Telangana came as a boon. Teachers went out of their way to help, guide, and involve as many students as possible. Their efforts to make this initiative successful is an example that underscores how dedicated and motivated these individuals are - all they need is a platform that would prepare and support them to be the catalysts for our hidden student innovators.

To conclude,

If limited engagement, support, and resources over a short period can bring 25 functional prototypes and 7093 innovative ideas, imagine what sustained engagement and support can do. These ideas and innovations that span across sanitation to mental health are testaments of how young people can act as agents of social change and truly transform communities. Through such collaborations across government and civil society, it is pertinent for us to provide the right opportunities to our children such that they can utilize their full potential to lead us to a better world.

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