Updated: Dec 30, 2021
Students’ Solutions Tackle Food Insecurity in San Antonio
The SA Smart Challenge steering committee is excited to announce that the SA Smart City Challenge's Mayor's Cup high school bracket winners are Team Dream, a group of students from Garcia MS, Reagan HS, Health Careers and Lopez MS, for their “Repurposing Restaurant Leftovers” solution. Additionally, the committee is excited to announce the middle school bracket Mayor’s Cup winners are JSTEM Academy for their “Citywide Public Run Pantries” idea.
The high school bracket second place went to Reagan High School for their “GrowDis/Grow and Distribute” plan. No third place was awarded in the high school bracket. The middle school bracket secondsecond-place place honors were awarded to Krueger School of Applied Technology (KSAT) Team 22 for their “Community Gardens in Local Schools” program, and third place went to Keystone Middle School for their “Alleviating Food Insecurity” presentation.
Additionally, the Hitish Nathani Resourcefulness Award was given to Keystone Middle School.
"You don't have to be of voting age to get involved in your local government," said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. "Young people have an important perspective. They bring some of the most crucial ideas and perspectives to the table. So, our intent has always been to follow through on these ideas, and that's exactly what we're doing with the SA Smart Challenge," he stated.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 120,000 San Antonians sought food assistance, doubling the 60,000 residents seeking assistance before the pandemic. The surge of mass unemployment and country-wide lockdowns brought on by the pandemic exasperated the already ongoing food insecurity crisis in the United States.
SA SMART competitors were asked:
How can San Antonio drastically reduce food insecurity among residents?
"SA Smart is a unique opportunity for students to engage in a real-world STEM challenge," said Natasha Wilkerson, STEM Director for Communities in Schools of San Antonio, and SA Smart Co-Chair. “Through the support of mentors and subject matter experts, students develop solutions that can directly impact their local community.” she continued.
45 teams, 260 students entered, from 15 schools, across 7 districts, plus one private, one home school, one non-profit, one parent-organized team research problems related to food insecurity. Students attended a Competition Clinic in March that included mentoring by local professionals and then presented their proposals in April. Seventeen teams from multiple districts were selected as finalists guided by local subject matter experts and research mentors. The 17 finalists included teams from:
Krueger School of Applied Technologies
Frank Tejeda Academy
Girls Inc. of San Antonio
John Jay High School Science & Engineering Academy
Ronald Reagan High School
Young Women's Leadership Academy
Dwight MS STEM Academy
“In our fourth year, SA Smart has now put 750 students in leadership roles solving the problems of their city,” said Cliff Zintgraff, Ph.D., SAMSAT’s Chief Learning Officer and SA Smart Chair. “It’s about STEM and its application to real problems, and about civics and 21st-century skills. These students are our future leaders! It’s our team’s privilege to help them learn how to make an impact.”
"The purpose of SA Smart is to give students the opportunity to tackle a real problem in San Antonio. It’s based on the challenges of how rapidly the city is growing based on the SA Tomorrow Plan. The competition is a unique opportunity for students to engage in a real-world STEM challenge that can directly impact their local community," said Natasha Wilkerson, STEM Director for Communities in Schools of San Antonio, and SA Smart Co-Chair.
During competition week, the finalists presented their solutions online to a panel of judges that included:
Erik Azulay – President, ACIR Foundation, Executive Director, Nexus Startup Incubator at the American Center, US Embassy, Delhi, India
Eduardo Bravo - Co-Founder and CFO, Irys
Minverva Defee - Climate Program Manager, City of San Antonio, Office of Sustainability
Mitch Hagney - CEO, LocalSprout
Songhee Han - Educational Data Scientist and UT Connect Fellow, The University of Texas at Austin
Arisa Larios - Registered Dietician, Community Nutrition Division of Metro Health Department, City of San Antonio
Andi Littlejohn - Chief of the EPIcenter Energy Incubator and Accelerator
Dr. Simi Mehta - CEO, IMPRI-Impact Policy and Research Institute, Delhi, India
Dr. Divya Rajput - India Lead, Texas Global, The University of Texas at Austin, President, Association of Women in Business
Matt Reedy - CTO, Addiction Resource Systems, Inc.
Glenn Robinson - Interim Director, Global Programs and Innovation, Texas Global, The University of Texas at Austin
Liz Thompson - Chief of Advisory Services, EPIcenter
Charles Woodin - CEO, Geekdom
“CPS Energy, Itron, and our collaborative educational initiative, SmartEnergyEducation.com, are proud sponsors of this year’s competition. CPS Energy’s Corporate Responsibility programming and partnerships seek a positive and lasting impact on our shared community - in this way, all the students participating in the competition have undertaken actions that can have tangible social outcomes in San Antonio and beyond. Empathy and observation are required to shape a better world and looking beyond your own personal experience is key. It’s powerful to have ideas but implementation is critical so we are thrilled to again offer the finalists the opportunity to continue working on their proposed solution in partnership with EPIcenter’s entrepreneurial accelerator program. Social impact and philanthropy is a shared responsibility. For all our citizens and neighbors to thrive we need diverse voices to be heard and have a role in the decision making,” said Stephanie Ockenfels, Corporate Responsibility Program manager at CPS Energy.
In its fourth year, the competition continues to prove the value of local STEM programming provided by local SA Smart partners and sponsors. The program is led by the City of San Antonio Mayor's Office, SAMSAT, and Communities in Schools - San Antonio. Program partners include Geekdom, CivTech SA, City of San Antonio Office of Innovation, City of San Antonio Planning Department, EPIcenter, Education Service Center-Region 20, Alamo STEM Ecosystem, the San Antonio STEM Council, Youth Code Jam Texas, and Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas. 2021 program funding was provided by CPS Energy, Itron, the Smart Energy Education program and the Matthew C. and Catherine A. Reedy Charitable Fund.