Challenge Accepted

Challenge Accepted is a bi-weekly event in the BOOMbox for junior high school students to experiment and design with a hint of competition. Nikki Palazzo, a Dominican University Graduate School of Information Studies intern, has been facilitating these programs this fall and I’ve asked her to write a guest blog about this unique event.

"If you’re a Skokie area middle-schooler, the library is the coolest place to be on a Friday after school, and it’s all thanks to science. Well, maybe it’s not the coolest, and we’re not doing just science, but it’s true: one of the most popular programs for junior high students is Challenge Accepted, a bi-weekly science, technology, engineering, or design challenge hosted in the BOOMbox.

Every other Friday from 4-5:30 pm, any middle-schooler who drops by is presented with a new challenge that is inspired by the current theme for the BOOMbox. Through December 18, in conjunction with the Exploring Human Origins exhibit that the library hosted this past September, the theme is all about what it means to be human. So far, our tweens have rescued livestock from a well by creating tools like their early human ancestors, designed and tested long-distance rafts out of brute materials in order to migrate, and even made life-or-death decisions about medical supplies during a deathly flu outbreak (in the form of a tabletop game). Admittedly, it was a rubber duck in a bucket of water instead of real livestock and a real well, and the rafts were floated across a water table not an ocean, but the kids’ accomplishments are still impressive! They were successful in using twigs, straws, Popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, wax paper, and other recycled objects and craft supplies to create functional tools. Their creations lifted a toy duck from water without their hands going below their hips, transported water from a bucket into a cup a foot away, and were capable of floating under the weight of a full water bottle.

The biggest hit so far was the medical triage challenge. Working in teams, kids were presented with a set of patients. All of them had a deadly case of the flu and needed medical treatment, but there wasn’t enough of the cure to go around.Teams debated and negotiated decisions based on information that got increasingly specific in each round. Their conversations led them to consider different issues, from the practical to the ethical.

The fun isn’t over yet! Challenge Accepted: Human will continue until late December. Still to come are a forensic blood lab, a seasonal shelter challenge, and more. After that, we’ll be back in January with Challenge Accepted: Design."