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Eighth Graders Design Apps, Inventions, Aid Kits to Address Humanitarian Crises

January 20, 2022 by Ronit Greenstein (Faculty and Staff)

Milton eighth graders recently completed and presented the projects they created for the Cadena Initiative, an international endeavor that connects Jewish day school students across the world in efforts to understand and address humanitarian crises and needs. This is the third year Milton has participated in the international contest of ideas. Students have been working on these projects since September, researching current humanitarian crises, brainstorming ideas, and defining a plan to assist people in need. Through this experience, our students developed their global competency, deepened their sense of empathy and strengthened their collaboration, creativity, research, and problem-solving skills. Below are just some examples of the projects by our eighth graders: 

  • Hurricanes in Haiti: Two Milton eighth graders presented a prototype for a geodesic dome made out of aluminum triangles, designed to serve as a secure crisis shelter for people affected by hurricanes. The scaled model was made out of laser cut pieces of wood that were printed in the Design Lab, and glued in the shape of a dome to create the durable shelter after the students researched the plight of hurricane victims in Haiti.
  • Malnutrition in Refugee Camp: One initiative revolved around malnutrition among Syrian families living in the Altinozu refugee camp in Turkey. This team devised a solution to provide families with seeds, a portable raised vegetable bed with a self-watering irrigation system, and pamphlets with easy-to-follow instructions in seven languages to enable adults and children to grow healthy food.
  • Food Insecurity / Halal Food Access for Afghan Refugees in US: One team learned with experts to address a challenge faced by Afghan refugees in the US: food insecurity and access to halal meat and fresh produce. The students researched non-profit organizations that had problem-solving models for assisting refugees, and interviewed entrepreneurs and NGO professionals such as Dr. Kira O’Brien ( Emma’s Torch), Carol Marcus ( Leket Israel), Merritt Groeschel (SHC), Caron Gremont (from Martha’s Table) to deepen their understanding of resources and challenges before identifying a solution: an app to connect local restaurants who may have surplus food with volunteers who can deliver the food to families in need. 
  • Infection and Injury in Refugee Camp: Two students examined a problem faced by inhabitants of the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh: infection and injury from walking barefoot on the unsanitary grounds of the refugee camp. The team honed in on a low-cost, sustainable, and accessible solution: a footwear design kit that relies on easy-to-find materials that enable refugees to make shoes or sandals. 
  • Acid Attacks/Violence Against Women: One eighth grade team tackled the issue of acid attacks on women, and created DPS (Defend, Protect, Save), a kit composed of pepper spray, ultra-filtered water, and anti-bacterial spray to help women defend themselves and to have inconspicuous emergency aid items on hand.
  • Homelessness & Extreme Temperatures: One team addressed the issues of homelessness and climate change and presented a prototype for a low-cost sleeping bag that is inflatable and uses the body’s own heat and sun radiation to warm the user.  

We are so proud of all the students for tackling significant global challenges and working to find creative, low-cost solutions using the skills they have developed at Milton: asking good questions, empathizing with others, researching, iterating ideas, prototyping, collaborating with team members, exploring partnerships with outside organizations, and presenting their work. One of the hallmarks of our school is providing students with purposeful tasks that help them pursue excellence and engage with the real-world through meaningful action. Milton students are emboldened to apply their knowledge and skills into action, and in the process, they grow as innovative thinkers and empathetic leaders. Kol hakavod to all the students, and thank you to Milton’s STEM & Design Lab Coordinator Elana Cohen for the guidance and support she provided.

Prototyping in the Design Lab

Presenting Cadena Projects