Students develop solutions to improve their schools at second annual Hackathon

March 2, 2022

The spirit of hacking is tackling challenging problems with elegant, immediate and compelling solutions. R2 Innovates, a district initiative whose purpose is to encourage design thinking, foster creativity through collaboration and bring amazing ideas to life, asked high school students for ways to improve their schools.

Richland Two Innovation Program Designer Nathan O’Neill said they asked students, “How would you re-design or improve your school this school year? How could you and your friends hack current problems to make school a better place for the district’s Four Core Values of learning, character, community and joy to grow?”

For the past few months over 300 students and 150 faculty and staff have been conversing on a platform called Brightidea where challenges and ideas have been highlighted. Challenges around socio-emotional health, culture and climate, technology access, and school spirit have all been discussed. Solutions like having pets in school, creating apps for mental health issues, cleaning up litter and bathrooms, changing tardy policies and composting to reduce waste have all been pitched.

To culminate this online conversation, over 100 students and 20 adults will gather for the Richland Two Student Hackathon this Friday, March 4 from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Richland Two Institute of Innovation (R2i2) Student Innovation Center located at 763 Fashion Drive in Columbia. The group will learn tenets of design thinking and then put those principles to work in creating solutions or hacks for their problems.

O’Neill added, “School, district and community mentors will be here to support students in their work, and free food and activities will be provided to buoy their spirits as they hack through the day.”

In the evening, student teams will pitch their problems and solutions to a panel of judges who will select top ideas to move into the implementation stage. Funding, resourcing and connections will be provided to help student-generated solutions make real change in schools this school year.