Winners of inaugural Superintendent’s Innovation Challenge impress judges

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Miami's Community Newspapers

Three two-student teams from Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High, Coral Gables Senior High, and Coral Reef Senior High and School for Advanced Studies-South were named winners of the inaugural Superintendent’s Student Innovation Challenge, and each team was awarded $20,000 in scholarship funds.

Twelve teams were chosen to present their solution for a real-world problem. Using their knowledge, creativity and the help of a “Pitch Coach,” they developed an innovative solution and then had three minutes to present it, in the style of TV’s Shark Tank, to a panel of judges. The categories were environmental, health, and social.

In the health category, team “CognitiveBotics” from Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High comprised of Brian Rodriguez and Luis Salazar was named the winner. Their coach was Ivan Yaeger, president of The Yaeger Companies.

The team from Coral Gables Senior High, “Closing The Opportunity Gap,” which included Christian Ochoa and Maria Estrada, won the prize in the social category. Their coach was Tina Brown, executive director of the Overtown Youth Center.


And in the environmental category, team CTOAE (Conserving the Oceans and Environment) from Coral Reef Senior High and Schools for Advanced Studies South, included Jonathan Wong and Luis Garcia-Sarabia.

The judges were Dianne Vidoni, CEO of eMerge Americas, an ecosystem that is transforming Miami into the tech hub of the Americas; Romi Bhatia, executive director of The Idea Center at Miami Dade College, which provides cutting-edge programming in technology and entrepreneurial training; Robert Hacker, co-founder and director of StartUP FIU, which supports researchers, inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs to conceive, launch and scale solutions, and Ebony Smith, founder of Ebenum Equation, which provides leadership development and employee experience design services through coaching, facilitation, workshops and talent development.

The remaining students did not leave empty handed. They were each awarded $500 cash prizes thanks to donations by Toyota of North Miami and the Miami Dolphins organization.

The Innovation Challenge came about when schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho donated the $10,000 prize he received for being recognized as National Urban Superintendent of the Year. Thanks to the generous matching contributions of community leaders who supported this initiative, $60,000 in scholarships funds were collected.

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