I had the unique opportunity to be invited as one of three guest judges for a very important competition in a grade five elementary class yesterday that hoped to solve the problem of increasing gasoline prices and energy infrastructure. Their teacher, a close friend of mine, had asked me and two other professionals to judge the presentations collectively of each student’s final project on an environmental unit they had been studying for the past few months.
Having worked closely with children of 10-11 years of age I felt I had some expectation of the quality of work, creativity and skill that would be presented, but was immensely impressed with how innovative many of their ideas were. Students were required to create their own solutions of how to combat high energy prices and contrast those with the single best idea of their parents. Each student then made a poster to present to our group of judges as we walked around the classroom and each judge could ask one follow-up question. While I’m happy to report that each student passed with an excellent grade for effort and quality, I thought it might be a fun exercise to share the top four ideas from the presentations…
#1 Stop Complaining:
“I developed a product that every adult has to wear when they drive. This electro-magnetic bracelet gives a small electric shock up the arm each time you drive past a gas station and swear or make a bad reference to how the oil industry continues to steal your money.” When I asked if they felt the idea was safe for other drivers on the road the young man smiled and said that, “You should drive with both hands on the wheel at all times and if you get shocked you’d still have one left unless you wore bracelets on both hands.”
#2 Convertible Buses:
“Some parents don’t think that riding the bus is cool. I think that the bus companies should look at ways to make the ride more interesting since you just see the same scenery each and every day. Video games, television shows and a convertible roof in the summer would help a lot of parents enjoy the ride to work each day and help to relieve stress by getting more sunshine.”
#3 Kite Cars:
“Whenever you drive on the highway, do you ever notice all the space that you have around you? My product attaches a kite to the front of your car, which in windy weather helps to pull you along the road and prevents a car from using as much gasoline.” Her answer to one judge’s question about signage across roads was to simply say that, “The government should take them down since most parents now have a GPS so its harder to get lost.”
#4 Snow Fuel:
“Every winter parents across Canada complain about shovelling the driveway and all the snow that we get. My car helps to solve this problem by running on snow for fuel during the winter months and helps to clear the roads at the same time by having a vacuum on the front. This will help big snow trucks from using salt and gas which are both bad for the environment and clear the city roads saving tax payer dollars.”
Each student also presented the best ideas from their parents, although most weren’t creative or imaginative. You could tell that some parents helped out more with the posters and others didn’t at all. But one mom was at the table with her daughter and I had a tough time keeping a straight face when I heard her idea for solving the current high gasoline prices:
“We need to start exploring for oil and gas in other parts of the world instead of just the Middle East. For over a hundred years now we’ve pulled millions of barrels of oil out of the ground in that part of the world and we need to start looking for new sources here.” When a fellow judge asked the woman why there was urgency to find oil in this part of the world the mother replied, “If we keep taking oil from only one part of the world, the oil on the other side could tip the balance of the earth.”
I kindly walked away to the next presentation while biting my tongue.