Creativity and critical thinking were at the forefront once again during the 4th annual 'Hacking SMCS' competition featuring Grade 11 and 12 accounting students at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS).
The year-long Independent Study Unit (ISU) began in September with the goal to have student groups develop an idea they felt would benefit and improve the SMCS community.
“Student groups took their idea and over the course of the year worked on an app or prototype to present,” says Dr. Daniel Lumsden ’96, accounting teacher at SMCS. “This ISU continues to be an outstanding experiential project for our students and a great example of Universal Design Learning.”
Universal Design Learning (UDL) is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.
“UDL appeals to all diverse learners and how they learn and the approach is definitely on display through this project,” says Lumsden. “Some groups may be better at visuals, therefore, they would show a google slide presentation. Other groups may be auditory learners, therefore, they would have a recorded presentation. It appeals to all students and their learning needs.”
Lumsden was once again fortunate to secure the coaching and mentorship of Brian Bulcke, a pioneer in design thinking, who has been part of the project over the last four years.
"The world is being shaped by large technology companies faster than we can track, let alone imagine,” says Bulcke. “Over the last few years, we've been able to educate a selection of young brave students to actually apply these design skills and technology principles through 'hacking' their own school.
"The term 'hack' gets a bad rep yet the majority of companies in Silicon Valley started as playful side projects! It has been thrilling to watch so many St. Mike’s students take so many amazing projects from brainstorming to actualization within the student body while learning real-world skills."
Bulcke is the cofounder Play4Tomorrow, a team of passionate tech experts, startup founders, and social changemakers who care about teaching and coaching technology through the power of play.
“We are very fortunate to continue to have Brian share his expertise and passion with our students,” says Lumsden. “Since September, he has been meeting with students once per month via Zoom. In addition, several days each month were dedicated for students to work on their projects and connect with Brian as needed for clarification or guidance on their innovative ideas.”
The project culminated in a year-end competition where the top four groups in each grade (Grades 11 and 12) virtually delivered their three-minute presentations in front of their peers and a panel of judges, including Bulcke. Parents were also invited to tune into the event.
In second place was the 'SMCS Fitness App' by Grade 11 students, Eric Dodig, Lim Flately, and Cuan Doig. Their app was quite popular among their peers, which featured the ability to design personal workout programmes for individuals with a unique ability to accommodate the workplace of the user.
Finishing in first place was ‘Beyond Blue', an app developed by Grade 10 students, Mark Ambrosino, Roeg Grossi, and Philip Grochmal who are currently taking the Grade 11 course. The app is designed to help students prepare for their future outside of SMCS, by providing information about university programmes, career opportunities, and more.
“The two finalists did an excellent job with their visuals which captivated the audience,” says Lumsden. “Anyone viewing their presentations knew the product was for SMCS students, and they spoke about the benefits of using their product along with how it could be used in the future.
“Each year the competition gets better with next-level projects. We want our business students to be creative and critical thinkers, and this project continues to offer this opportunity.”
Over the course of the summer, several students who participated in this year’s competition will be invited to participate in an internship with Bulcke’s Play4Tomorrow design academy.
"Next year, we are going to start with this past year's design and practice by further bringing them to life,” adds Bulcke who looks forward to once again playing an instrumental role in the competition. “Shortly thereafter, we will encourage a new level of 'hacking' that should finally start to create far-reaching student-led change! So exciting!"