Empowering Communities

Competition Puts the Future in Bronzeville Students’ Hands

February 14, 2019

It was a cold, snowy morning in early January as dozens of high school students gathered at the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School of Chicago (YWLCS). But the cold did not put a chill on the warm glow of excitement as they formed teams and learned how, over the coming four months, they will apply microprocessor technologies to enhance community life.

This was the scene as ComEd started its second-annual Ideathon – a competition among high schools in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood to design solutions to address community challenges.

YWLCS Principal Dr. Vanesa Scott-Thompson proudly introduced two of her students, Taneisha Spiller and Mykiah Jordan, who won second place last year with a prototype of a device designed to alert people who are hearing impaired of emergency sirens. The pair have their sights set on first place this year.

“I have always believed that people can only be what they can see, and the Ideathon provides students a good look into the future and exposes them to unique opportunities,” said Scott-Thompson, who comes from a family of educators and has played a key role in developing a rigorous STEM curriculum at YWLCS.

The defending Ideathon champions, a two-person team from King College Prep in Bronzeville, are also returning. They won last year with a prototype of a microprocessor device designed to prevent accidents when emergency vehicles travel through busy urban intersections.

Ideathon teams advancing to the final round will present their prototypes to a panel of judges at the final “Spark Tank” event in April. Cash prizes totaling $4,000 will be split among the top three finishers in the Ideathon, one of several educational programs included in ComEd’s Community of the Future initiative in Bronzeville.

“The Community of the Future is a living laboratory for the development and implementation of energy technologies,” said Shay Bahramirad, ComEd vice president of engineering and smart grid. “Creating an understanding in the underlying technology among area youth is key to the sustainable success of these initiatives. It’s also an opportunity for them to gain skills that will serve them well as they continue their education and explore STEM careers.”