Disney and XPRIZE Unite to Encourage Students to Think Science

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

While this is an unabashed promotion of the upcoming Disney animated feature Big Hero 6, it also is a real XPRIZE for young people. The prize is not millions of dollars but is still really cool.

Six winning students will travel to Los Angeles, walk the red carpet at the film’s premier, go behind the scenes to meet the creative minds at Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering, and join a special “Visioneering” session at XPRIZE headquarters.

big hero 6

Students will enter in either the Junior Division (8-12 years of age) or the Senior Division (13-17 years). They will present their solutions to the world’s biggest challenges. The precise statement is “What one problem would you tackle to change the world? How would you do it? Tell us in a video!” XPRIZE judges will review the submissions and choose twenty finalists. Then, the public and a panel of expert judges will vote to determine the six winners.

Registration opens on Friday, September 19. Have your students put on their thinking caps. You do not have to go to the movie (unless you win). Entry is free. Just create a one-to-three minute video showing how you will use any combination of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) to solve one of the world’s problems. Be creative in defining the problem, in finding a potential solution to the problem, and in presenting your proposed solution.

Clearly, Disney does not require introduction. The XPRIZE Foundation is a matchmaker of sorts. It identifies highly leveraged situations that innovation can solve and that can change the world for the better. It finds sponsors for the challenges it creates around these problems that are not being addressed otherwise for a variety of reasons. Anyone, anywhere can enter. But beware! These are never easy challenges.

See my previous article for more on the XPRIZE Foundation.

I hope that this challenge introduces thousands of young people to the joys of discovery (science) and creation (engineering) while using technology and arts to show that they have great ideas.

I also hope to follow up with an in-depth discussion with the Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Technology Officer, Andy Hendrickson in the next few weeks.

2 Responses

  1. Is it a coincidence of events that Toshiba and the National Science Teachers Association are sponsoring a similar competition? The first prize here is a $10,000 US savings bond. Unlike the Disney/XPRIZE competition, which is new, this one has been around for 23 years. Entrants must think ahead twenty years into the future and imagine what technologies will be like then. They outline a plan to test their idea scientifically and present it all on a website.

    The submissions must consists of student teams of from two to four students who must have a teacher sponsor and may have another adult mentor.

    You can learn more about the ExploraVision contest at exploravision.org. Last year’s first-place winners were from West Salem High School in Salem, Oregon. Their submission was about powering implantable medical devices using quantum dot thermal energy harvesting. The second-place team’’s idea used optical transistors to run computers at higher speeds and lower power than today’s computers. They hail from W. L. Mackenzie C. I. in Toronto, Canada.

  2. Support Disney in this effort so that they continue to use their considerable talent and resources to help science education.

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