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Challenging Staples Students

It doesn’t take much to get Staples students to spend 13 hours on a Saturday at school.

Just the chance to research, model, analyze, synthesize and develop presentation materials to solve a real-world problem.

And win $10,000 in scholarships.

Albert Einstein is not on any of the Staples Spectacular Student Challenge teams (he's too old, and too dead). But Staples' spectacular students will do fine without him.

The 1st-ever Staples Spectacular Student Challenge is set for this Saturday (January 30).  Stapleites have formed themselves into teams of 4 or 5; if they’re smart (and they are) their team will be skillful in areas ranging from English and social studies to math and scinece.

At 8 a.m., the teams will receive a Challenge problem.  For the next 13 hours they’ll work together to research the problem, figure out a solution, and present it persuasively.

Preliminary judging will be done by Staples faculty.  The top teams will be invited to present their solutions — and answer questions — at a public forum on Tuesday, Feb. 9.  Those presentations will be evaluated by a panel of community experts.  The top 3 teams there will divide scholarships of $5,000, $3,500 and $1,500 respectively.  (The $10,000 total was raised thanks to a private donor and Westport’s Green Village Initiative.)

So what might this open-ended, thought-provoking, real-world problem be?

Three samples were provided by math instructor Trudy Denton.

One dealt with health policy:

Evaluate the expected infection rate of H1N1 Influenza virus in the Westport community.  Define an optimal health policy for the community that incorporates vaccination guidelines, quarantine recommendations and school closure policies.

Include analysis of the implications of broad based infection in among various school community groups:  students, faculty and support staff.  How might your recommendations change if considering H1N1 infection in an inner-city school setting?

The 2nd involved energy usage:

Develop an optimal school calendar and daily schedule and identify the optimal use of Town of Westport facilities in order to reduce current energy usage by 10%.

Consider the financial implications of your proposed changes for the Westport School District; the psychological, social and emotional needs of students in your recommendations, as well as family, individual student and staff needs.  Identify the impact on transportation services, and consider the historic rationale for the traditional school calendar.

The 3rd covered personal finance:

Design an annual and monthly family budget for an average family in suburban Westport and an average family in inner city New Haven.  How do the following considerations impact each of these budgets?  Environmentally friendly purchases and family practices; transportation decisions; education planning; financial and health emergency planning; child care and extracurricular expenses; leisure activities.

Just another typical Saturday, for typical Staples students.

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