Shark Tank-style innovation problem pushes college students to search out options to each day issues

Ailani Barr, a freshman at Armstrong Junior High, wants to find a way to relieve her grandmother’s liver problems.

As part of a new project-based science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning program, FlexFactor, Barr learned the importance of flexible hybrid electronics and how it can be used to solve real-world problems.

In order to detect gastrointestinal diseases and other problems that can result from the liver, she, along with a few other students, came up with the idea of ​​a camera contained in a pill that goes through the digestive system and is attached to the liver to find possible gastric complications.

“We thought about it because my grandma has liver problems and she’s older, so she doesn’t believe in a lot of medical technology. This could give her a way to tell if she has liver problems,” Barr said.

Students across the Golden Triangle are learning about the importance of manufacturing and hybrid electronics.

FlexFactor is locally managed by East Mississippi Community College and owned by the NextFlex research institute. The students identify a problem they want to fix, research a way to solve it and show their project idea to a panel in a “Shark Tank” -style presentation. Camille Cooper, coordinator of the EMCC FlexFactor Outreach, said this program not only teaches students to think critically, but also introduces them to careers that they may not necessarily be familiar with.

Camille Cooper

“We want students to see themselves as something after high school,” said Cooper. “We’re not necessarily trying to push them to EMCC or an advanced manufacturing career. … This program just gives you a lot of different opportunities and teaches you real life. “

Together with Armstrong Junior High, EMCC has partnered with Columbus High School and Golden Triangle Early College High School to produce FlexFactor – with 278 students in those three schools learning skills such as problem identification, research methodology, and slide presentation programs.

The program began in mid-October and ends on November 17, when students present their graduation projects to panels composed of school board members, community partners, and representatives from the Golden Triangle Development Link. Cooper said FlexFactor is bringing K-12 education, college, and the professional industries together to help future generations.

“It’s really rewarding to see how far these students have come in six weeks,” said Cooper. “This program lets you think outside the box. There are already solutions for many things, but that makes them a little more difficult and gives them the opportunity to develop their own solution. “

Katie Young, the AJH freshman faculty sponsor, said the students for this program were selected by those who were in manufacturing and technology for the You Science test, an aptitude test that not only had career interests but also Abilities measures have been accelerated. Young said she loved watching her students excel on this program because it allows them to learn about careers in manufacturing.

“It was great to see our kids doing something outside of their normal routine,” said Young. “It’s a way to apply the skills you’ve learned in the classroom and solve real-world problems. That really gives teenagers strength. “

Barr said FlexFactor inspired her to potentially pursue a career in manufacturing in the future, as she now knows the process of making technological products.

“It was a good experience because I saw how things are done,” said Barr. “… I could imagine doing such a job.”