Spectacular Staples Students Save Seaside Heights

You can’t keep some kids away from Staples High School.

Even on Sunday.

Last week — at the teen-ungodly hour of 8 a.m. (really 7; it was the day the clocks changed) — 52 students gathered for the 4th annual Staples Spectacular Student Challenge.

The Stapleites — including, for the 1st time, 5 freshmen — had 12 hours to read, analyze, research, synthesize, and finally solve, a real-world problem.

Welcome to education, 2013-style.

And this being 2013, the problem involved natural disasters.

An all-junior team of (from left) Jack Cody, Baxter Stein, Katie Zhou, Melissa  Beretta and Max Liben take a well-deserved break.

An all-junior team of (from left) Jack Cody, Baxter Stein, Katie Zhou, Melissa Beretta and Max Liben take a well-deserved break.

The students were asked to use Seaside Heights, New Jersey — an area ravaged by Hurricane Sandy — as a case study. Their challenge was to recommend ways that coastal towns and regions can prepare for — and recover from — future hurricanes.

Working in teams of 4 and 5, they had to first:

  • Quantify the financial impact of storm damage to individuals, businesses and infrastructure
  • Find out how the damage was addressed, and
  • Determine how recovery programs were funded, and assess their effectiveness.

That was only Part 1.

Next came the task of developing a plan to abate the effects of future hurricanes on Seaside Heights, and provide aid. Students had to:

  • Consider the role of prevention and response on regional, municipal and personal levels
  • Figure out the social, legal and financial implications of their plans
  • Include a cost/benefit analysis of their recommendations, including implications for the community, state, region and nation
  • Consider how to sell the plan to the community
  • Advise how the plan could be implemented by other shoreline communities.

All by 8 p.m. that night.

Juniors (from left) Nick Stern, Tyler Marks and Connor Mitnick solve the hurricane problem. Not pictured:  Ben Goldschleger.

Juniors (from left) Nick Stern, Tyler Marks and Connor Mitnick solve the hurricane problem. Not pictured: Ben Goldschleger.

Though President Obama, Congress, Governor Christie, FEMA, and bajillions of other people have worked steadily on this issue since October, the Staples students were undaunted.

Using the internet; skills gained in math, science, history, social studies and many other classes; collaboration, and their own very significant brains, they produced an enormous range of responses.

Those will be examined closely, by a panel of judges. The top teams will make formal presentations next month — adding “communication skills” to the long list of criteria students are expected to master in 2013.

The 52 teenagers who competed in this year’s Spectacular Student Challenge were there for a variety of reasons. They love competition, academic rigor, open-ended questions, and the flexibility and creativity of solving a real-world challenge.

The scholarship prize money — $35,000 was awarded in the 1st 3 years — is important too, of course.

But they’d probably be there even without that lure. In fact, one student thought next year’s challenge could be even tougher.

He wants to add “a twist” to the problem at some point during the day.

This all-sophomore quartet included (from left) Nick Kveitaia, Killian Jampierre, Andrea Mahieu and Mehar.

This all-sophomore quartet included (from left) Nick Kveitaia, Killian Jampierre, Andrea Mahieu and Mehar Kirmani.

12 responses to “Spectacular Staples Students Save Seaside Heights

  1. Martha Honey/Tony Avirgan

    PLEASE REMOVE ME IMMEDIATELY FROM YOUR LIST.

  2. My sister has (had) a house in Seaside Heights. Is it possible to see the recommendations those students came up with? i would love to share them with her..

  3. Maggie Feczko

    Ditto from anonymous who asked if there is a way to access the reports? we have a little beach house just north of Seaside Hieights and have been down there for inspection. At the end of December, it looked like a war zone with police barriers and all. Many are rebuilding as if this could never happen again. How foolish.

    • It is OK for you to have a beach house, but others who want to rebuild are “foolish”? Would you have the same attitude to our neighbors in Saugatuck Shores and Compo who are rebuilding after Sandy?

      • Yeah. I don’t think Maggie realizes that A LOT of people who have houses by Comp and on Saugatuck Shores are actually summer residents. Just like Maggie in Seaside… Gasp!!!

  4. Ilene Mirkine

    This challenge is one of the spectacular things that Staples HS students do, and the community is invited to see the finalists’ presentations. As Dan mentioned, the top teams will make formal presentations next month – I’ve attended most years and have been impressed with their strategies every time. ‘Looking forward to this years’ presentations…

  5. Westport should take a good look at their proposals, as many of their suggestions would apply right here in Westport.

  6. I am sure Staples has something slipped into their water to turn out so many geniuses through the years. Always the greatest & smartest. They WILL have great ideas I am sure of that!

  7. Sven Davidson

    Snookie, Jwwow and The Situation must be thrilled.

  8. Tarra La Drule

    Oh come on folks. All this talk about how “smart” Staples’ students are with their – to quote – “significant brains” etc. There are a multitude of factors at play here so let’s not get too carried away with ourselves. Selection bias again. How about a story about the non-achievers and special needs brigade at Staples?