Students use STEM to save city from toxins

Oak Cliff students   popcorn pour
Oak Cliff students popcorn pour

Special to The Dallas Examiner

Young participants in a NAF Future Ready Lab, powered by Capital One, took part in a project that incorporated design thinking to “save a city” from toxins.

NAF Future Ready Lab is a new, innovative internship concept designed to scale the quantity of meaningful internship experiences available for more students to participate and prepare for future careers. The program kicked off June 11.

The ToxiCity Challenge, held Aug. 2, empowered students with innovation and design skills that they can use as part of the future workforce. Capital One associates mentored youth in STEM skills so that they could build a prototype as a solution to preventing contamination in a city. Materials included rope, buckets and tire tubes to move and contain the “toxic” popcorn kernels.

During the challenge, youth designed a product to safely remove “toxic” popcorn in order to save the city. The design process is what engineers use to solve challenges in the real world. Additionally, students are working on projects assigned by entrepreneurs, which youth will present at the end of their four-week internship. The challenge was designed to help youth learn problem-solving skills, which they will also put into practice in their final project.

“Through this mentorship program, I am now able to better organize ideas. I have an entirely new mindset to think outside of the box to innovate and be creative,” stated Brandon Parrish, senior, Sunset High School.

“The Capital One mentorship has helped me think more and not take the easy route, which won’t get you anywhere. It taught me new strategies,” said Bryanna Harris, senior, Justin F. Kimball High School.

Attendees included youth from Woodrow Wilson, Justin F Kimball, W.H. Adamson and Sunset high schools. The student training was in partnership with the University of Texas at Dallas Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

During the internship, students participated in professional skill-building workshops with mentors and learned about college life. This paid internship provided high school students an opportunity to put their education into practice in a unique work environment.

“My career goal is to manage a business. My knowledge has been boosted when it comes to how business works. Design thinking shows that you can get opinions of customers so you can learn strategies of satisfying them to create a win-win situation,” Harris added.

In 2015, Capital One launched Future Edge, an initiative that pledged $150 million over five years to help more Americans get the skills, tools and resources they need to succeed in the 21st century. Future Edge DFW is part of the commitment to make Dallas-Fort Worth a destination for top talent, spur growth as a world-renowned technology hub and nurture leaders of tomorrow.

“This program has elevated me in wanting to pursue my dream. I was in a community where I didn’t have much technology. As a future computer engineer and entrepreneur, I would like to create new technology for communities that don’t have the resources,” Parrish concluded.


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