Pandemic and Reaching for Relief projects bring recognition and reward for high school students.
Flagler Palm Coast High School teacher Diane Tomko can't recall another time teams from Flagler Schools tied for a grand champion title at a Future Problem Solving competition. But that was the outcome this year for "Pandemic" and "Reaching for Relief," two of the projects presented by FPC groups she helps coach.
The Flagler school district has long emphasized the real-word critical thinking and problem-solving skills the program encourages. Hundreds of students from the district, along with coaches and parents, descended upon Orlando March 27-29 for the state competition.
Among them were the 12 students behind "Pandemic" and "Reaching for Relief," which tied as grand champions in the Group Community Problem Solving Division. As such, both teams will advance to the international competition that will be held on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in June.
For the students, it will be a second chance to impress a panel of judges with how they've conceived of, researched and carried out solutions to challenges that are applicable to the world around them.
In the case of Pandemic, the impetus for their idea came after junior Aaron Carll toured the University of Florida last summer and was curious about the bat houses he saw on campus. After learning that bats naturally help cull the population of mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects, Carll and his group did more research about how structures that attract bats might help in curbing the spread of the Zika virus, especially in this region of Florida.
"And that's why we thought it would have an impact on Flagler," said sophomore Sarah Main.
Working with FPC's Construction Club, the group built five bat houses that they then installed at different sites across the county. According to the data they collected, the bat houses are projected to attract 800 bats by 2019.
"Something like this just shows you that can make something from nothing, and that six kids from Flagler County can really have an impact," added Carll.
Reaching for Relief
For the team behind Reaching for Relief, it was the personal experience of one of the group members that provided the inspiration for their community-changing project. When Nicole Perilli's sister was rushed to the hospital after serious injuries sustained in a car accident, Perilli and her family had to travel back and forth to a hospital in Jacksonville to stay by her side. In those trips, everyday conveniences took a backseat to the condition of Perilli's sister.
"And I realized so many times you might need something, like a simple overnight bag, to make things a little more comfortable," Perilli said. "A lot of times, the hospital staff is so focused on the patients, that the families are like the forgotten group."
So Perilli and her teammates decided to fill that void by creating homemade tote bags filled with essentials like toothpaste, shampoo, breath mints, notebooks and pens, and even hand-written notes of support from local children written generically to people in times of crisis. They created lists of local restaurants, transportation services and other resources families stuck in a waiting room might need, as well as changes of clothes for relatives.
The group offered their services to the Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach (Florida Hospital Flagler politely declined, citing the help they already receive with Project H.O.P.E.), focusing specifically on the high-traffic units of pediatrics and neonatal. The response has been amazing, the group said, with other medical facilities expressing interest in replicating the model.
Both teams look forward to presenting their projects again at the FPS internationals, where the competition will, of course, be significantly stiffer. Until then, though, students are focused on fundraising efforts to support the cost of their travel to Wisconsin. First up, a community flamingo flocking effort. For more information, go to: www.flaglerfps.com/flamingo-flocking/, or to make individual contributions to support the two FPC teams written about here, contact [email protected].