MSO Community Service AWARD

Bright Ideas STEM From Today’s Youth

Bright House Networks

A vehicle that never needs to be refueled or recharged; using exploration drones to venture great distances; software to help people complete forms who can’t see or read; a new design for a cast; a watch that can revolutionize health care; and a new way to apply eye drops (50% of us do so incorrectly).

These were the ideas of finalists in Bright House’s inaugural “Bright Ideas STEM From Today’s Youth.” The students were challenged to not only dream big but to mix their imagination with reality, as their ideas also had to be practical enough to have a chance of helping people and potentially creating jobs.

The practical aspect of the competition related to the endgame, as the best ideas were presented to a judging panel of inventors and entrepreneurs. And more practicality: The winner was given a chance to work for 11 weeks with an innovation firm in NYC, which meant the student got to experience taking the idea through the various steps needed to make it a product.

And no pressure, the finals were filmed in front a studio audience. The six finalists, some were teams, others were individuals, received a four-day, all-expenses-paid trip to Orlando to prepare for and appear in the finals.

Each of the MSO’s service areas had the chance to send a student(s) to the finals. Winnowing it down to 6 teams was tough, as 123 teams submitted proposals, with more than 1,600 votes cast online.

Like most companies, Bright House has limited funds for community activities, so it chooses causes carefully. It conducts research, asking subscribers what’s important to them. Bright Ideas focuses on two issues subs felt were critical: Increasing participation in STEM fields and keeping local economies growing through job creation. Bright Ideas also fits squarely within the MSO’s mission statement of supporting its communities by making resources available to schools and youth; preparing the next generation of leaders; and engaging youth in after-school programs.

Another wrinkle is that while the ideas in the competition certainly are STEM-enabled, they are not necessarily limited to STEM, says Kimberly Maki, corporate VP, corporate communications & PR. Bright Ideas “also encourages interest in STEM by students who may not traditionally be in STEM classes,” she adds.

And it took a village to pull off the inaugural program, Maki says. “Our corporate communications team provided program leadership, and our field team worked directly with the community to engage students and educators,” she says.

Bright House’s marketing and event teams helped plan and execute the finalist pitch events, and senior executives contributed advice and coaching to student participants. A slew of employees volunteered for various jobs. There also were formal “Friends of STEM” agreements with 69 local organizations and community groups, says Reinaldo Llano, director, corporate community relations. Educators were critical, too. Teachers encouraged students to join and incorporated Bright Ideas into their curricula, Llano says.

While the ideas were great, the memories generated might be better. Maki’s favorite moment was “seeing the finalists cheering each other on as they took the stage.” Llano concurs: “We had the opportunity to see the students grow, learn and refine their pitches over the course of four intense days.”

Next year? Planning already has begun. The goals are to double applications and expand the number of community organizations, Llano says. Now those are great ideas.

 

–          Seth Arenstein

–          Fast Fact

–  Each year Bright House supports some 500 local charitable organizations and causes in the communities it serves.

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