San Diego

High School Students Take Home Grand Prize in SD Design Challenge

Three high school students won the top prize of $5,000 in a city-wide design challenge to solve San Diego transportation issues.

The Design for San Diego 2017 Civic Challenge asked participants to tackle an issue in San Diego related to commuter experience, accessibility, biking and walking, or autonomous vehicles, according to the D4SD website. The three high school students won the challenge against professional, college and college graduate-level competitors.

“Most of the teams were business professionals,” said D.J. Nelson, a high school freshman on the team. “They were there because it was their job. I did it for the experience of using design thinking.”

The team, Cycle Detection, consisted of Nelson, a ninth grader at Francis Parker School, tenth grader James Maron and eleventh grader Savera Soin, both of Canyon Crest Academy. They were asked to provide a solution to making bicycles more visible to cars in the future.

Their team designed wireless transponders that allowed bicycles and smart cars to communicate with each other, allowing cars to detect the bikes from a distance and around corners. The cars then reacted by notifying the driver on the dashboard or braking.

Participants in the D4SD competition were given one month to submit a response to the challenge issued them, and approximately 50 applications were submitted in October, according to The League of Amazing Programmers, a non-profit after-school program that teaches children and teenagers computer programming.

The League sent five teams of high schoolers to compete, which turned out to be the only high school participants in the event.

D4SD judges whittled the number of submissions to eight finalists, two of which were from high school teams sent by The League, including the grand prize winners.

“I knew the students could hold their own, but I had no idea one of the League’s five teams might win,” said Becky Deller, Director of Community Engagement for the League, in a statement. “The judges were surprised to learn the age of The League’s student entrants, and praised them for their poise and intelligence.”

The winning team will now have the opportunity to pitch their design idea directly to the city of San Diego, the San Diego Association of Governments and SCALE SD for possible implementation in the future.

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