Expo showcases students' solutions to global issues

DCSD students present projects, get feedback from experts


Ten-year-old Rachel Bloomfield's favorite subject is science. And for the Student Innovation Expo at Mountain Vista High School, she showcased her edible water bottle project.

“Chefs use these materials to make things look like caviar,” the Pine Lane Elementary student said of her ingredients, calcium lactate and sodium alginate.

The molecular reaction of the two creates a gelatin-like, transparent coating filled with liquid. Bloomfield's project was equipped with a detailed poster, demonstrations of her design and an additional invention — edible peppermint coasters.

Bloomfield was one of approximately 300students from Douglas County School District to participate in the first-ever Innovation Expo on June 6 at Mountain Vista High School, a science fair-like exhibit of student solutions to global issues.

"We had an overwhelming response from participants and students," said Rachel Brown, the school district's curriculum coordinator, who organized the event. "The goal is to showcase their learning and to get feedback from experts in the community."

The expo kicked off Create Something Great, a district innovation think tank that brings together teachers with experts in education, industry and technology. The third annual four-day conference drew more than 500 educators from the state and countrysaid Paula Hans, the district's public information officer.

Students convened in the cafeteria and presented their projects with poster boards and live demonstrations. They were split into two groups — elementary students followed by high school students. About 30 judges from businesses across Denver reviewed the projects and gave students constructive feedback.

Project topics included health, the environment, safety, lifestyle, technology and more.

“We recruited judges based on their area of expertise and their specialties,” Brown said.

Ron Bush, director of education for Challenger Learning Center in Colorado Springs, was an elementary-level judge. Bush develops and delivers STEM and aerospace programs to K-12 students at his school.

“I love when kids get to show their thought process in designing a project,” Bush said. “These kids were well-spoken and had some great answers.”

The innovation expo gave students a chance to present their passions.

Cassandra Smyth and Emily Harris, sixth-graders at Pine Line Elementary, showcased the blueprint of their Ongaku Watch. The contraption is a collaboration of a Fitbit and Apple watch. The girls described their invention as an “advanced step tracker for athletes, music gurus and night owls.”

The name means music in Japanese and signifies their inspiration for the project. Harris plays the guitar and Smyth plays the piano, saxophone and trumpet.

“We liked having the freedom to control our project,” Smyth said.

Approximately 500 guests, including DCSD teachers and staff, attended.

Jessica Craig, a third-grade teacher at Roxborough Intermediate School, had a group of students study the wildlife habitat of Sterling Ranch, a 3,400-acre development in northwest Douglas County. The group developed a set of guidelines that met National Wildlife Federation requirements.

“There's a real-world piece to these projects — they have an impact on the community,” she said. “It's a lot different than just completing a worksheet assignment.”


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