The middle school is currently taking part in a high-stakes competition where they are exploring the seemingly impossible.
As they gathered in the Rose Room on Thursday, Jan. 28, guest speakers, middle school administration and faculty members announced the commencement of the XPRIZE challenge. In the audience, the future inventors of biodegradable grocery bags and other advancements in food sustainability cheered on.
According to the XPRIZE website, “XPRIZE is a highly leveraged, incentivized prize competition that pushes the limits of what’s possible to change the world for the better.”
XPRIZE is a foundation that promotes advancements in various scientific fields in order to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. Past XPRIZEs have resulted in innovative progress in suborbital space travel, aviation and progress in the effort against climate change.
The foundation challenges pose issues to the public, seeking solutions. Private teams ranging from high school students to industry experts generate possible solutions and then present their creations to the XPRIZE judges. The team that creates the best solution wins prize money, usually ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars.
Archer administration and XPRIZE organizers presented the issue of food sustainability to the middle school. Dean of Academic Affairs Gretchen Warner leads Archer’s involvement with XPRIZE.
Warner and XPRIZE representatives met once a month for six months to determine the challenge that best fit Archer. In their meetings, they continuously came back to the notion of food sustainability. After all, “Archer girls love food,” Warner said.
Middle school students formed teams of two to five students and signed up to participate in the competition. In all, 140 middle school students have signed up to tackle the challenge.
Those students now regularly meet during X-blocks to plan with their teammates and brainstorm their creations.
“It’s an idea challenge, rather than a prototype challenge,” Warner said.
Middle schoolers will not be building their creations but instead are drawing blueprints and creating diagrams to explain their ideas.
“They’re going to submit a digital poster [for their creation], and then we have experts that are going to give them feedback on their idea,” Warner said. “So maybe your idea was for a plastic bag that you get in grocery stores that automatically dissolves in water. The expert will come in and give a few bits of feedback.”
The students can then decide to continue working on their creation, which will be displayed in a gallery and eventually presented to XPRIZE judges.
The team that wins first place will receive a package of prizes. Students will have the opportunity to meet with co-chef and owner of Border Grill restaurants Mary Sue Milliken. The students will accompany Milliken to a farmer’s market, where they will help her purchase ingredients for her restaurant. They will then help prepare meals at the restaurant.
Warner said the winning team will also get a “robotic pet,” which she wishes to keep mysterious. Lastly, the team will also be presented with “a magical lunchbox” filled with various smaller prizes, including a gift card to the Archer student-run store The Arrow.
The themes and principles of XPRIZE overlap various principles that Archer students live by, according to Warner, including “to dream big, to try to accomplish what nobody has done before.”
According to Warner, you’re never too old or young to be a scientist.