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Building an Innovative Mindset

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Last Monday, February 20, Rockhurst hosted its first MECA Challenge. “MECA Challenge” stands for Most Entrepreneurial Community in America, and its mission is to transform education to produce innovative thinkers. The event was held on a day with no school, yet over fifty students opted to participate. The MECA challenge is a great opportunity for students to develop an awareness for what is going on in their community while building an entrepreneurial mindset.

The competition challenges students to communicate their ideas in their group, and then think critically to use all of the ideas and give a presentation. Each presentation lasted four minutes, followed by a three-minute question period by the panel of judges.

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“The purpose of school is to prepare students for the world, it makes sense to actually connect them to that world. The MECA challenge gives students authentic problems that actually allows them to make a difference in their local community. Students are also connected with mentors who are living and working in the community.” Mr. Owsley, STEAM director, said. “All of the elements of the challenge trigger intrinsic motivation, high student engagement, and creates a scenario and environment where a lot of learning can happen.”

The day began, and students were split up into groups of five, along with their mentor. After an introduction and presentation by SEED, the group organizing the event, the problem was presented: How would you help patients in Kansas City find accessible and affordable medications and specialists based on their individualized insurance plans and neighborhood options?

The most difficult part about the problem was navigating the complications of health care. Since students are not responsible for their own care, they were encouraged to reach out to parents or friends to develop a better understanding. Nonetheless, with the guidance of mentors, all groups were able to formulate ideas and give a presentation at the end of the day.

“I was surprised by how well all of the teams did, because the challenge was very complex.” said Mr. Owsley. “The first team literally built an app in three hours.” Many of the ideas were inspired by popular apps such as uber, tripadvisor, and maps.

A goal for the MECA Challenge is for groups to foster a collaborative environment. Students enjoyed working together and thought it contributed to much of their group’s success. “Creative problem-solving is all about teamwork. In order to design the ultimate solution, a lot of brainstorming and perspectives are required,” Orion Taylor, president of the entrepreneurial club, said. “My favorite moment was getting down to the nitty-gritty with my team by brainstorming and designing our networking platform.”

Michael Crowe, a member of the winning team, thought that his team’s strength was communication. “Our ability to communicate our ideas with each other kept us on the same page and allowed us to be more productive with our time.”

At the end of the day, only one group won, but all participants took something away from the event. The success of the MECA Challenge guarantees similar events in the future, designed to enhance critical thinking and communication skills.

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