Teams of Middle-School Innovators Gear Up To Tackle Environmental Problems

MCPS, county, KID Museum collaborate on Invent the Future Challenge


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Middle schoolers gather around laptops at the KID Museum, whether they're learning the skills they'll need to complete the Invent the Future Challenge.

Bethany Rodgers

Middle schoolers from Silver Spring began learning about computer coding and tool-handling safety Thursday for the kickoff of a new science and math challenge.

In coming months, hundreds of students are expected to participate in the Invent the Future Challenge, which will culminate in a May 2018 showcase. Montgomery County Public Schools, the KID Museum and the county government are partnering on the program to give middle school students a chance for hands-on learning about science, technology, engineering and math.

“We don’t know what the future looks like. What we do know is our kids will invent it,” said Cara Lesser, founder and CEO of the KID Museum in Bethesda.

Lesser, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith and County Council members held a news conference on Thursday at the KID Museum for the launch of the challenge. Students from Argyle Middle School sat around work stations in the background to begin learning the skills they’ll need for the contest.

The challenge asks students to develop, design and build a solution to an environmental problem. The students will work in teams of three to six people and present their inventions at a spring summit. Judges will recognize submissions that show originality, could have an impact and demonstrate design ability, according to a press release.

Smith said educators and community groups must work together to break down the walls between learning inside and outside of schools.

“It’s so critically important that we create experiences just like these,” he said.

During the challenge, the KID Museum, a nonprofit in the lower level of Davis Library, will host MCPS middle schoolers for a series of innovation workshops.

On Thursday, Erik Vasquez, 13, was one of the students beginning to develop his technical skills. The seventh-grader said he was excited about learning a new coding language and approaching science and technology differently than he would in school.

“I think here, you’re more hands-on, working with tools and applications that you wouldn’t have at a school,” he said.

Students from Argyle Middle School learn about workshop safety, above, and computer coding. Credit: Bethany Rodgers.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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