The Aftermath of Awarding $55,000 in Scholarship Funds

The past couple of weeks since announcing our scholarship awardees have been a incredible whirlwind. Most of it has been a joy as we have enjoyed the enthusiastic responses from students and their families. Some has been unfortunate as we had do deal with some plagiarism, which is always taken very seriously at HonorsGradU.

We especially love it when it works out to surprise our recipients with the news.

Xelah Baca, creator of BHS Recycle, received the news from her mentor during an awards ceremony:

And I was able to fly down to surprise Anthony Neil Tan with the news that he was selected as our top recipient during his senior awards night for his creation of the Maker Hub Club:

Check out the newly updated Past Winners page to view all 5 students’ prototypes, reflection videos, and colleges. We look forward to sharing more about the background of these 5 outstanding students this summer, and to seeing Anthony’s project grow with another fully funded iteration. Thank you again for your efforts to design a better future!

For you incoming seniors, be sure to stay tuned for the details at the end of the summer on our 2020 scholarship program!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Announcing Our 2019 Design A Better Future Scholarship Awardees!

This is our seventh year of running a scholarship sponsored by Honors Graduation. Over the past two years, we have offered a program in which students develop a community-improvement project based on the model of design thinking.

We were inspired by the ambitious, generous, and innovative projects from this year’s applicants. The vision of these high school students gives us so much hope for the future. Our scholarship committee is pleased to announce this year’s 5 recipients:

Anthony Neil Tan, top recipient to receive an additional $5,000 toward another iteration of his project: Maker Hub Club

Xelah Baca: BHS Recycle

Elizabeth Hansen: Composting For A Cause

Sruthi Kundur: Stay Healthy, Be Confident Hygiene For Women

Cobi Reed: Envisioning a Better Future

Congratulations to our awardees! Watch for additional updates, including on our Past Winners page.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Announcing Our 2018 Design A Better Future Scholarship Awardees!

Over the last 6 years of running this scholarship, our program has evolved from an essay contest, to a multimedia project, to now a 3-round Design Thinking community improvement project. We can say with confidence that this year’s application process has been the most ambitious yet!

We certainly asked a lot of our 2018 applicants: a full project proposal, an artifact or prototype, and a final reflection including video. And we have been inspired by the determination of these students to strengthen their communities in diverse ways. While it was extremely difficult to make the final decision, we are very pleased to announce our final awardees are as follows:

Bryan Banuelos: Warrior Dream Program ~ Our top awardee who will receive an additional $5,000 toward another iteration of his project

Austin Fitzgerald: MindStrings free violin tutoring for low-income students

William Rand: OHBreathe wellness workshops at his school

Alexis Showalter: CyberCitizens tech class business for seniors

Isaac Stone: Invisible Cane device to assist the blind to navigate surroundings

Full details on their projects will be published on our Past Winners page within the next few weeks. Thank you to all the schools and administrators that helped spread the word on our scholarship, and thank you to every student that applied! We wish you all the best in your future endeavors!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

We Need Design Thinking: Another More Serious Iteration of My Design Thinking Project

We need design thinking. This has been a concept we’ve promoted here through our scholarship this year — and we’ve been astonished at the projects students have submitted to improve their communities.

Through my own “Design A Better Future” project, just how much we need design thinking has been reinforced in a rather tangible manner.

As I have begun volunteering with our local bicycle committee, I have been amazed at the many ways other volunteers have made an impact on our city. But despite progress, it is with great sorrow that I learned a teen I used to teach was recently killed while crossing the street in my old neighborhood.

This tragedy has strengthened my resolve to contribute however possible. As I work toward clarity and purpose, I have found myself yet again on another iteration of the design thinking cycle, this time with my commitment toward better design. Here’s what it currently looks like:

Look, Listen, & Learn:

As I have renewed my research efforts, I have sadly uncovered direct opposition to design when it comes to taking measures to make room for all people using our streets.

For instance, last summer a local paper ran a report with the tone that pedestrians “assuming right-of-way” are foolishly getting themselves hurt and killed:

“UDOT director of Traffic and Safety, says 94 percent of crashes are a “behavior decision,” not a road design. None of it matters if pedestrians don’t take advantage of safety features or if drivers are distracted or blow past them.” (Source)

Yet in the wake of this tragedy, a common response has been a demand to know more about how design can improve that road’s safety. Residents of the neighborhood even state that far from serving them, the surrounding roads have functioned as walls, compelling them to drive rather than walk even 2 blocks to the local rec center to stay safe.

This has led to more in-depth investigation into Complete Streets policies, one of which is currently being considered in my city.

Ask Tons of Questions:

  • What do Complete Streets mean?
  • What do Complete Streets not mean?
  • What are the costs of Complete Streets policies?
  • What are the obstacles in designing roads that permit all people to freely and safely navigate their communities (not just bicyclists, but pedestrians, people in wheelchairs, children on scooters, etc.)?
  • What has been the impact of Complete Streets in other parts of the country?
  • How do Complete Streets impact local economies, in addition to health, safety and environmental factors?

Understand the Process or Problem:

In response to my many questions, my research has been expanded to a more in-depth understanding of Complete Streets, including these informative videos from Streetfilms:

“It’s extraordinarily important that we find ways to make our communities more accessible to all the people that want to use them, and allow for kinds of transportation that are more sustainable in the long-run.” (from above video)

Benefits of Complete Streets I’ve found include (but are not limited to):

  • Cost effectiveness:
    • Provides long-term savings as it avoids the need for expensive retrofits later on.
    • Many small road improvements that make a big difference come at little to no added cost.
    • “allows for an efficient and optimal use of limited resources: time, fuel, land, public health, the environment, and money.” (source)
  • Safety:
    • Complete Streets have been found again and again to decrease injuries and deaths (source).
    • Protects the most vulnerable of society (children, the elderly, people of color, and the disabled), thus addressing issues of equity (source). 
  • Quality of Life:
    • Encourages healthy active transportation, walkability, and even a sense of community as people have options to travel on more attractive, pleasantly landscaped areas.
    • Gets residents out into their neighborhoods more often, promoting both exercise and social connection (“Complete Streets Help Create Livable Communities“).
  • Vibrant local economies:
    • Increases home values
    • Provides “green dividends” that allow people more money to spend elsewhere
    • Improves access and foot traffic to local business (source). (During a test ride for a new local bus system, transit co-vice chair Sherrie Hall Everett commented, “[Though the road is still] under heavy construction, and many have been concerned about the sidewalks being narrower…what I didn’t anticipate was how much more I noticed the stores, how much closer they felt and related to the street. I noticed the windows and what was going on inside and felt more of the energy of their presence”).
  • Public transit improvements: 
    • Considers how many people have access to bus stops from their homes.
    • Improves comfort and convenience of stops, speed of service, and measures that lower congestion. (source)
  • Environment:
    • addresses pollution through a combination of more active transportation, better public transit, and lowered congestion.
    • allows people to complete trips (39% of which are three miles or less in metropolitan areas) in a zero-emissions manner (source)

More importantly for the context of our local concerns, I have also uncovered some important facts that debunk notions that it’s not about design. These I have turned into graphs, which has lead me to…

….Navigate Ideas:

The most important finding is as follows: on average, 45% of bicyclists and 50% of pedestrians in the last decade had no contributing factors in the crash, a figure that has been on an upward trend. This means that even when they’re doing everything right, a significant portion of people who are walking and biking are still getting hurt.

https://highwaysafety.utah.gov/crash-data/utah-crash-fact-sheets/

Source: https://highwaysafety.utah.gov/crash-data/utah-crash-fact-sheets/ & https://highwaysafety.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2015/02/UtahCrashSummary2010.pdf

Furthermore, pedestrian deaths and injuries have been on the rise in my state over the past 10 years. 

Create a Prototype:

In this case, the prototype was an event where I attended and voiced some of what I shared above; our city Planning Commission met to review a proposed Complete Streets Policy for our city, along with feedback shared by another city department that seemed less than supportive of the policy. Below is a clip beginning with a moving response from one of the commissioners, Jamin Rowan, after hearing from all the community members and reading the other department’s feedback:

“It is time we demand to revisit those standards…It is not an amendment in our constitution to be able to get in your automobile and travel down the road as quickly and conveniently as possible. Our society and culture has operated upon that assumption. It has become a de facto amendment and I’m tired of it. And I think the people that we’ve heard from tonight are tired of it…I’m not in favor of defending old codes instead of defending the vision that’s outlined in this [Complete Streets] policy…Streets are one of our most valuable public spaces…This is one to fight for and not let it get watered down.”

Highlight & Fix:

Mainly, I learned that I should write down my talking points before making formal presentations. I plan to do so for the next phase of the design thinking cycle…

…Launch to an Audience:

Next week, I’ll be presenting to our City Council members.

I’m looking forward to continued iterations of this design thinking process. I hope to convey a strong sense that the quality of our communities and of our very lives depends on good design.

 

 

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

More to read:

4 Ways Utah is Dealing With Overly Wide Streets

4 Reasons We Must Build Our Streets For People (not just cars)