Each day this week at the International Emerging Leaders Conference hosted by Collegiate School, 41 international delegates and 20 Collegiate seniors collaborated in teams to design viable solutions to real-world problems their countries face.
Using the process of Design Thinking, which abandons immediate solution-seeking inclinations and instead encourages communicating and understanding the issue at hand, students dove deep into the five steps to tackle a problem: discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation and evolution.
These intensive exercises culminated last evening at Oates Theater and Sharp Academic Commons with DesignPitch, an event during which the student groups presented their social entrepreneurial pitches in real time — sharing the solutions and designs their global teams developed to positively impact a particular environmental problem. One team focused on deterioration of marine life along the Moroccan coast, another tackled land degradation from mining in South Africa and yet another focused on effects of irrational logging on the Mexican environment.
Before launching their pitches, students and the audience — which included Collegiate community members and the general public — enjoyed hearing from Rebecca Hough, president and CEO of Evatran, the country’s dominant player in the wireless recharging of electric vehicles (EVs), including the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt. Ms. Hough has been widely recognized as an outstanding entrepreneur in this technology, including being named one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 under 30 in 2015.
In an energetic, interactive presentation, Ms. Hough spoke about the increase in production of sustainable products in the past five years. She also noted that the rate at which people adopt new technology is on the rise. That she acknowledged, was good for Evatran.
“As of today, a Richmond, Virginia, company is the only one with wireless recharging technology,” she said.
Ms. Hough told the audience that she never expected to work at a startup. She encouraged the students to be open to a career that may not be on their radar now.
“Find something that you love and that allows you to be creative and have an affect on the world,” she said. “Find what makes you tick.”
Students then headed to Sharp Academic Commons for their chance to present the week’s work. Each group had four minutes to pitch their idea to four groups of spectators, with three minutes allowed for questions at the end.
From concept to creation, students learned that producing the final product was a lesson in patience and determination.
“It was a bit challenging to stick with the process,” said Sonja Kapadia, a senior at Collegiate whose team addressed the issue of water pollution and fish poisoning in the Nura River in Kazakhstan. “But when you do, it works.”
Arshdeep Singh, a senior from India, agreed. His team, which included students from Spain, Morocco, Malaysia and the U.S., collaborated on the problem of Malaysia’s coral reefs in peril.
“The work is hard,” he said. “And even though we think so differently, the solution came along really well.”
On Friday morning, the international delegates visited with JK-12 classrooms and in the afternoon, participated in a Cultural Fair for 3rd and 4th Grade students and their families. They return to their home countries on Oct. 10.