The 2016 Virginia Steam Hackathon: Students Brainstorm How To Solve Global Warming

Sera-Brynn was fortunate to sponsor and work alongside the Virginia STEAM Academy to present a 2-day hackathon at Washington and Lee University in collaboration with Virginia Military Institute.

The Virginia STEAM Academy is a selective, weeklong summer program for 6th to 8th graders interested in science, technology, engineering and applied mathematics and allows kids from across the Commonwealth of Virginia to work together to develop leadership and problem solving skills. The problem presented to the students for the 2016 Virginia STEAM Hackathon was the loaded issue of global warming.

During the hackathon, we asked the students to come up with solutions to global warming and discuss how their solutions may impact our everyday lives. We explained that each group would be evaluated on four different criteria: feasibility, creativity, cost-effectiveness and uniqueness.

Students were split into 10 groups of six and the ideas started flowing — from solar-powered cars, to policy and ad campaigns, to steam turbines powered by the sun. Groups debated among themselves about what would be the best way to approach the problem.

Once the groups were able to come to a consensus solution, they began a deep dive into the problem and how the solution would be implemented into everyday society. Virginia STEAM Academy groups brainstormed ways to fundraise or partner with other companies to gain funding and support.

At the end of the first day of the hackathon, the groups explained their ideas to the audience. This allowed students to give and gain constructive feedback from peers. In most cases the feedback added to the ideas and made the proposed solutions more efficient or easier to implement.

With this feedback, Day 2 found the groups forming well-rounded solutions and presenting final plans to end the hackathon. Virginia STEAM Academy students were very engaged and interested in the topic, leading to some highly creative and innovative possible solutions.

The students had a fun group problem solving experience, but some of the ideas the groups came up with could be the next step in helping prevent global warming!

Sera-Brynn believes in not only empowering kids to solve problems, but teaching them about the diversity that’s important in solving problems. The Virginia STEAM Academy Hackathon allows the kids to learn to think from not only a technical side but a business and marketing side on how to problem solve.

The hackathon proved that it doesn’t just take one kind of person to solve a difficult problem, it takes a diverse group of people ranging from technical to business savvy to have the best plan and solution.

The same conclusion can be made in everyday life. It doesn’t just take the IT staff or the leadership to address security and technology, it takes the entire organization, from the marketing staff, to HR, to IT, to the leadership all working together to implement the best solution.