Middle school students from Sacred Heart Nativity School participate in a half-day design challenge for vaccine distribution.

Young minds tackle big problems

The launch of The Tech for Global Good created new education programs for young social innovators

Understand a global issue. Work with other students from around the Bay Area. Delve into a design problem over the course of about five hours. Shemsa Morkoch read the details of The Tech for Global Good design challenge and was an immediate yes.

“I’m always looking for hands-on and unique experiences for my students,” said Morkoch, a 7th grade teacher at Aspire East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy. “We don’t get a lot of field trips or opportunities to collaborate with peers outside of our school community.”

Marjorie Bennett, a middle-school science teacher from San Jose’s Sacred Heart Nativity School, had a similar reaction when The Tech reached out to her class in November. She made sure to bring her 8th-graders back in the spring to participate in one of the four half-day challenges The Tech facilitated throughout the year.

Both Aspire and Sacred Heart are schools in low-income communities that participated in the first year of The Tech for Global Good design challenge program. Inspired by the work of global nonprofit PATH, the challenge had students role play as leaders in a health nonprofit and grapple with the conundrum of vaccine distribution in one of four cities around the world. Working in groups, they accounted for treacherous supply chains, unpredictable weather and skeptical cultures among populations in desperate need of medicine.

“I really appreciate how The Tech integrated the social studies aspect — where are these countries, what kind of resources do they have, what kind of problems do they face,” Bennett said. “I tell my students all the time, scientists don’t work all by themselves.”

For the 2018–19 school year, students will tackle a new design challenge focusing on animal conservation, and Girl Scouts will begin taking our new badge program on social innovation. We’re also developing new ways to help educators bring the Tech for Global Good into their own classrooms through online resources.