The Hyland High School Innovation Showdown

One of the great things about working for Hyland is the chance to give back to the community. This year, I took advantage of the opportunity to be a mentor for the High School Innovation Showdown, which is part of Hyland’s Tech Outreach programs.

This was my first year participating in the Showdown, and I was not sure what to expect. I did know that I was excited, as the tech outreach programs provide a variety of courses that teach students computer science so they are prepared for a future where technology skills are essential.

A little background on myself: I was a Test Engineer in Hyland’s Research and Development department for almost two years at the time of the competition. And I was no stranger to Tech Outreach programs. I had helped with the Hyland Hackathon earlier this year, and I was a teacher for our Hy-Tech Club for two semesters as well as two summers for our popular Hy-Tech Camps.

So I was not worried about working with students, even though I understand some people’s trepidation. As much as I do get some flashbacks to my awkward years in high school, the main reason I volunteer is to get out of my comfort zone.

“The entire process made me identify a problem in our world that is either not easily solved or has not been satisfactorily solved. To come up with a practical solution made me think critically about the best and most efficient ways to solve problems.”

– Innovation Showdown participant

Outside of the self-oriented reasons for volunteering with Tech Outreach, I also never pass up on the experience of watching students grow and flourish with my help. This year, there were 14 teams with a total of 46 students participating.

Getting involved

Before this year’s High School Innovation Showdown, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to help because of possible time constraints. Our department was very busy, not only with a faster release cycle, but I was trying to establish a good work-life balance.

Luckily, it ended up being a non-issue for me, as I was able to meet with my team during work hours at their school (Bay High is only a three-minute drive away from Hyland) and the final-round event was on a Saturday (November 16).

I am thankful for the team I was assigned; they were hard-working and driven individuals who took the challenge seriously and brought an amount of passion that I forgot people are capable of at that age. Hyland’s High School Innovation Showdown, unlike our Hackathon, does not require technical knowledge to mentor a team. The only skills I really needed to bring to the table were organization and brainstorming leadership.

They took care of the rest, very capably.

“Our mentor helped guide our discussions from less feasible ideas to practical ones, all while letting us think for ourselves. She gave valuable input during the video creation process and also during the creation of the presentation.”

– Innovation Showdown participant

My team decided on an innovative process to combine many functions together into a process called PARC, process and redistribution of compost. They felt their process would tackle the issues of food waste, over-farming, and energy.

The team put together a three-minute video to pitch their idea and if they made it to the final round, they would have to put together a 10-minute presentation for their innovation. Of the 14 teams that made it into the competition, only six made it to the final round.

Going for the win

I am pleased to say that the team I mentored made it to the final round!

All the presentations during the final round were exceptional. I look forward to seeing what these students are going to accomplish throughout the years with the imagination and drive they demonstrated in this challenge.

Mentoring a team for the Hyland High School Innovation Showdown was a fantastic opportunity to give back to students in a setting that challenges thought and creativity while not distracting too much from my workload. Or theirs.

Also, the immense feeling of pride and admiration I experienced as I watched an idea sparked in a group of students’ minds become a winning presentation in a contest is unbeatable. Yes, my team won first place and I couldn’t be happier for them!

Marie Chirico

Marie Chirico

Marie Chirico is a Test Engineer 1 at Hyland and has been a member of the R&D Department for two years. She holds degrees from a handful of universities in... read more about: Marie Chirico

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