EAST GREENWICH—Rocky Hill Country Day School will be helping to tackle the United Nations Global Challenge with a “Solution2Pollution” hackathon Summit, in an effort to Reduce environmental pollution by empowering students to do both well and good. The Pendulum spoke with Hack for Global Good co-founders and members of the Rocky Hill class of 2020, Cortlandt Meyerson and Ben Pogacar about the importance of the event and the role of fostering involvement among young people from diverse backgrounds.

“A lot of times a hackathon is not for younger people, it is for people with backgrounds in these fields,” Pogacar said. “But we want to participate and get involved and we are best able to do that by involving mentors who support people from all different backgrounds.”

Indeed, Hack for Global Good utilizes the myriad of skills of experts from academia, business and government to help mentor young people and foster the growth and transmission of their ideas by providing meaningful dialogue and encouraging entrepreneurship. To date, some of the organization’s mentors have included faculty members from Brown University, engineers from robotics companies and presidents of technology companies.

The group’s core strength, however, is in its desire to unite Rhode Island’s young minds regardless of educational background.

“Students have these amazing ideas and think they have to wait until they’ve gone through college to act on them,” Meyerson said. “One of the most important parts of this event is that we want every student in Rhode Island. It doesn’t matter if they’re homeschooled or attend a private or public school. It doesn’t matter what their background is. That’s how you get the best ideas. We want people who think in all different ways.”

Hack for Global Good is an annual, student-driven summit at Rocky Hill Country Day School in East Greenwich that empowers students from across the state to find solutions for a United Nations Global Challenge. Over the weekend of November 15 and 16, participants will collaborate with industry experts on the theme of “Solution2Pollution” before pitching their own ideas to a panel of judges, with the ultimate purpose of discovering new and effective ways of overcoming existing hurdles. The event will host keynote speakers Arnell Milhouse, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Brown University Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, and Richard Vevers, Founder of The Ocean Agency.

Pollution is listed as one of the United Nations Global Challenges, and Rhode Island’s next generation is stepping up to discover innovative solutions to reduce the causes of pollution both locally and across the globe. “Solution2Pollution” is open to all high school students in grades 9 through 12, with no prior hackathon experience necessary. All areas of expertise are needed, from writers to athletes, techies to scientists. Mentors and expert advisors will provide insight and guidance throughout the process. Participants can register either as a team or as an individual.

Pollution also plays a critical factor in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which are items listed by the UN to address by 2030. Indeed, pollution is directly related to seven of the SDGs: Health and Wellbeing, Clean Water and Sanitation, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Life on Land and Life Below Water.

Though the summit is not directly aimed at addressing the SDGs, its founders understand the importance of doing something related to sustainable development and its proliferation, and the importance of engaging young people to act on a growing global crisis.

“The [SDGs] don’t direct it, but they give a good idea for the basis of it,” Meyerson said. “It is so important to us. My parents are both ecologists and I would almost be ashamed to not have this as one of the issues facing my generation.”

“There is absolutely an immediacy,” Pogacar said. “We’re not looking for solutions 50 years out. We’re coming up with solutions for the next 10.”

Hack for Global Good is a form of a hackathon, a social good gathering event for individuals committed to solving important problems in the world. The Hack for Global Good initiative is designed to expose high school students to 21st-century skills within real-world scenarios, developing learning modules that incorporate innovation and entrepreneurship while exposing students and teachers to new ideas, opportunities and mindsets.

Rocky Hill director of innovation, Meg Stowe, spoke to the importance of deploying the state’s human and intellectual capital towards engaging young people to bring their ideas to the table.

“The more people you enroll, the more potential it has to grow,” Stowe said. “I get the pleasure of employing networks of these brilliant young leaders. This is a by-students for-students event and is the vehicle that we can use to contribute to the greater dialogue about what this process should like.”

“Whether the students are engaging with industry leaders, leveraging higher education, NGOs or for-profits, bringing people together who don’t normally come together in an important and fruitful endeavor,” Stowe said. “Magic happens when we have conversations we weren’t having before. And I have the pleasure of employing these networks of brilliant young leaders.

Students interested in participating in the summit can register at hackforglobalgood.org. Registration closes on Nov. 10.

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