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Most students earn a grade for their science projects, but a group of our students recently discovered their work is taking them on a journey they never imagined possible. Our four-member team presented their project in Washington D.C. to judges from SourceAmerica’s Design Challenge, a national engineering competition that partners high school students with nonprofit agencies that employ individuals with significant disabilities. The Indy Met team placed 5th in the nation.

Related: Indianapolis Met Design Team Featured on Inside Indiana Business
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Project Helps Disabled Workers

Judges reviewed nearly 90 submissions from around the country, ultimately selecting our all-girl team as one of five finalists. The national recognition is a first for the Indianapolis Metropolitan High School team, who unlike other finalists never participated in the challenge before and lacked the STEM resources utilized by other teams. In fact, the Met team’s final product cost only $20 to produce.

The team’s innovative thinking and resourcefulness not only helped them succeed, but also significantly helped local disabled employees. The Met team created a device that eliminates discomfort experienced during a process performed by Goodwill Commercial Services employees, many of whom have mild to significant disabilities. Since employees began utilizing the device, errors decreased by 67 percent and production increased by 12 percent. Learn the specifics of the device in this video.

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New Opportunities

For team members Mikya and Minae Berryhill, Anya Blaylock and Kylee Caldwell, the journey to Washington D.C. has been filled with new experiences. From learning how to dress professionally, speak in front of a crowd and travel on a plane, they’ve obtained skills that companies seek in future employees.

They might not need to wait long, however. A representative from Conexus encouraged the students to apply for a coveted spot in their internship program this summer. Sophomores Blaylock, Caldwell and Mikya Berryhill did just that, with Minae Berryhill transitioning to college after graduation this year.

Related: Indianapolis Met Design Team Featured on IndyStyle on WISH TV
Once in a Lifetime Experience

Currently, the girls are hard at work polishing their presentation, attending practices during spring break, after school and during their lunch period. The preparation will also help them when they meet with Representative Andre Carson and Senators Joe Donnelly and Dan Coats in their congressional offices in D.C.

The journey the girls are on is not lost on their advisor, science teacher Eric Sprague. “I’m blown away by the doors that keep opening for the girls because of this,” he says. “They’ve grown from quiet teenagers into professional business women, it’s amazing.”

Winners of the SourceAmerica challenge receive cash prizes and national recognition. Follow our progress at the competition on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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