Students Spark Bold Innovations in Transportation

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”

— Franklin Delano Roosevelt

If you drive through Chattanooga, Tennessee, there’s a big chance you’ll be stuck among towering 18-wheelers in gridlock traffic at the intersection of US Highway 27 and Interstate 24. In fact, the interchange is ranked as the eleventh worst freight bottleneck in America! When you factor in thousands of daily commuters, it’s a real pickle. The problem has captured the attention of Thrive Regional Partnership stakeholders and a leadership team of professionals, who seek to solve the issue through innovative and collaborative thinking. But we didn’t stop there.

Young minds generate bold ideas, so Thrive decided to pose the issue to young people in the tristate region and beyond. The Bright Spark Student Design Contest, sponsored by Thrive and powered by Bright Spark, a social innovation of  design-thinking consulting firm Bridge Innovate, set about to answer the question:

How might we reimagine the transportation system of the future to move people and products more efficiently throughout the tristate region while protecting our natural resources?

Alongside the professional leadership team’s first summit at Volkswagen USA, over 150 students, elementary through collegiate (some from as far as Ohio and New York!), buzzed about with prototypes and presentations of their imaginative solutions. All ideas were exceptional in their creativity and implementation of the concept of design-thinking. However, a nationwide panel of business leaders judged the highly competitive submissions and declared the following winners:

  • Bright Futures, Elementary School Best Overall: Rock Spring Elementary led by Ralph Keith

  • Bright Futures, Middle School Best Overall: Chattanooga Christian School led by Andrew Meador

  • Bright Futures, High School Best Overall: Beacon Academy led by Stevenson Pangkey and Tiffany Britt

  • Bright Futures, College Best Overall: Auburn University led by Ben Bush

  • Regional Innovation (Tristate Award): Hixson Middle School led by Lee Smith

  • Inspire & Impact (Most Creative): Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences led by Kelly Davis

  • People's Choice: Beacon Academy led by Stevenson Pangkey and Tiffany Britt

The contest presented a real-life issue with a primer in design-thinking methodology, giving students the opportunity to develop creative problem-solving strategies and the chance to work alongside experts in their field. In doing so, students were exposed to future career paths with prospective employers within our region. The Bright Spark students unlocked limitless potential to change the world of tomorrow, starting today!