May 20th, 2013 by Gage Pacifera
Over the weekend I volunteered as a facilitator for the first ever Innovation Academy. This was another education-oriented event organized by the Technology Association of Oregon. I’ll quote the description from the announcement on their website:
The Innovation Academy is bringing together students, teachers, and working professionals from the Northwest’s technology industries to empower students with new skills sets of the digital age.
Teams will work collaboratively to build software applications and other technology-based solutions that solve real world problems that exist within our community. The solutions that will emerge from these teams will be known as “Innovation for the Common Good.”
Basically we brought together a diverse group of people to pow-wow over the most pressing issues in our local community and to brainstorm ideas on how we might help solve these problems through technology (or more specifically through software and web applications). By the end of the three-hour session we ended up with a dozen or so workgroups each with a blend of students, teachers, community members and technologists who whose aim is building a solution over the summer.
The whole experience was pretty neat. We had an enthusiastic, creative group of people attend and it was great to see everybody coming up with great ideas for solving some very real problems. The app ideas ranged from offering social services to creating directories for joining sports activities and finding college information to interactive classroom tools to enhance interactions between teachers, students and the educational materials.
Here’s a note written by one of the participant’s parents that I think does a pretty good job of showing what this event was trying to accomplish:
I wanted to thank you all for inspiring my son [a 5th grader]. He had such a wonderful time and is eager to attend the next session. We went to this with the expectation to hear and see what high school students were doing with technology.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how the facilitators not only engaged the two youngest people in our breakout group, but also encouraged them to present their ideas to the majority. I was even more surprised that [my son] accepted!
The student group working on the Community Safety app gave a presentation of their work. That app is a collaboration between a group of students from Wilson High, a subset of my team at Franklin High and the Portland Police Bureau. I’ve been helping out with this effort and they are building on some of the work my team did for the Franklin High School app. The progress the kids have made over just two months is pretty impressive! I’m looking forward to seeing the evolution of the app through the summer.