K-12 Education

Three Aspen Challenge Teams Advance to Aspen Ideas Festival

April 18, 2013  • Natalie Lacy

Three student teams from across Los Angeles, representing Downtown Magnets High School, Taft High School and Westchester High School won the top prize during the Institute’s final Aspen Challenge competition on April 13. It was the culmination of seven weeks of planning, prototyping and community building, which mobilized 200 students from 20 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District to create, and then present, solutions to some of society’s most pressing issues.

Judges awarded a full scholarship to attend the acclaimed Aspen Ideas Festival to each of the members of the three winning teams. Launched by the Institute and the Bezos Family Foundation, in partnership with the school district, the citywide competition began with a two-day forum where leaders pioneering change to various world issues presented the teams with eight challenges. Teams had seven weeks to design a solution to the challenge topic of their choosing.

The panel of judges, which included the Institute’s Education and Society Director Ross Wiener and Chairman Emeritus Bill Mayer, adjudicated the teams on their solution’s creativity, feasibility, originality and the teamwork each solution took to execute. The Downtown Magnets team addressed leader David Gallos’ challenge to start a social movement to protect the oceans. Creating O.C.E.A.N. Los Angeles, the students organized beach cleanups, presented at community events and schools, formed partnerships with businesses, designed posters and videos, and amplified their work through social media.

Students from Taft High School designed a solution to address leader Dean Kamen’s challenge to increase awareness about and enthusiasm for science and technology in schools. Calling themselves The Transcendentalists, they designed the campaign SpreadingSprouts. Through the creation of gardens, the students synthesized and taught an art, science and math curriculum for elementary school students in their community. They plan to help the schools maintain their gardens through summer programs.

Westchester High School’s group selected leader Kristin Groos Richmond’s challenge to bring peers together to create a healthier community in regards to food. The team, named Comet Radiation, designed an Aquaponics system to produce green resources right on the school’s grounds. They have plans to implement a farmer’s market for the greater community, as well.

“We are forever grateful to the Aspen Institute and the Bezos Family Foundation for believing and investing in our LAUSD students,” said LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy. “The Aspen Challenge helped light the fire in many of our students to be the next big thinkers, designers and engineers of change. There is no stopping the students, who grew intellectually and interpersonally through this great challenge.”

As part of their prize, the students will present their challenges and solutions at the 2013 Aspen Ideas Festival from June 26-July 2. The Aspen Challenge will be held annually in cities nationwide. Watch below to see the Los Angeles Unified School District’s video of the Aspen Challenge.

Aspen Challenge – LAUSD from LAUSD Journal on Vimeo.