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BCIL Challenge of the Month: Life in the Time of a Pandemic
Shirley Blake

Thanks to Mr. Chien, Mr. Michelson, and students in Entrepreneurship II for our recent BCIL challenges. In the United States and in countries around the globe, COVID-19 and the subsequent need for social distancing to slow its spread have affected people of every age, community, and occupation. The Brentwood community was asked to come together and consider the myriad of challenges stemming from life in the time of a pandemic. The BCIL Challenges of the Month are presented in this video

Challenge #1: Social and Community Trust

This BCIL Challenge of the Month presented by students from Entrepreneurship II addresses the issue of social and community trust. Ben's pitch describes the challenge asking, "How can we leverage technology to connect people through promoting healthy habits and fostering hygienic trust throughout communities?" Amidst the pandemic, it's easy to doubt the habits of others in our community, yet we're more reliant than ever on technology to keep us together. 

Importance of being able to connect

"The Coronavirus Crisis Is Showing Us How to Live Online" NY Times

Examples of companies connecting people with technology during the COVID-19 crisis

Challenge #2: Panic Buying

This BCIL Challenge of the Month presented by students from Entrepreneurship II addresses the issue of panic buying. Inventory at markets has become limited, and gathering at a store violates the core concept of social distancing. Ted's video pitch describes the challenge asking, "How would you address the effects of panic buying and mass congregating at markets and ensure the availability of food, medicine, and other essential resources as well as proper sanitation within our communities?" 

Restaurant Suppliers Are Opening Up to the Public to Keep Their Businesses Alive

Are Food Deliveries and Groceries Safe During Coronavirus Pandemic? Yes, Experts Say

How Grocery Stores Restock Shelves in the Age of Coronavirus

Empty Grocery Shelves Are Alarming, But They’re Not Permanent

Challenge #3: Design Challenge

3D printing is a powerful technology that allows anyone in the world with the right hardware to make solid plastic objects from a digital file. Even in the time of social distancing, people can share designs and build things together around the world. If certain materials become scarce for any reason, people could use 3D printers to produce parts and products that they may not have time to wait for large-scale manufacturing processes to deliver. Today with some European hospitals facing shortages of face shields and parts for their medical respirators, designers in the Czech Republic and Italy are creating plans for personal protective equipment and replacement valves that are being produced directly in the hospitals that need them. They are saving lives today.

How might you leverage the power of 3D printing to improve peoples’ lives? What can you design in California that could help a community beyond your home?

‘A Worldwide Hackathon’: Hospitals Turn to Crowdsourcing and 3D Printing Amid Equipment Shortages

Calling All Makers with 3D Printers: Join Critical Mission to Make Face Masks and Shields for 2020 Healthcare Workers

HP Inc. and Partners Mobilize 3D Printing Solutions to Battle COVID-19

Watch This 3D-Printed Adaptor Transform Snorkeling Mask into Ventilator


Students were encouraged to submit as many entries as they wished, and there was no limit on team size. There was no overall length or format requirement, but we recommended written, visual, or prototyped submissions address these questions:

- What is your proposed solution to the Challenge of the Month? Solutions might consider community organizing, public policy, programmatic or technological innovations, financial resources, etc.

- How is your plan feasible/practical/actionable? How might it be publicly or privately funded?

- How would you collaborate with relevant stakeholders to ensure your solution inspires a shared vision and generates necessary buy-in?

- What was your problem solving approach? How did you seek and incorporate feedback from others? 

We encouraged participants to research, ask questions, and seek and incorporate feedback. The BCIL applies an open source philosophy to our ideas meaning that by participating, we each agree that companies or non-profit organizations may use our ideas to address real world challenges. 

The Upper School Food Science class participated in this Challenge. Teams of students researched topics such as food supply chain, worker safety, panic buying, cooking from home, and access to food for vulnerable populations. After researching current models to address these challenges, teams proposed their own ideas and prepared pitches that they delivered to peers and faculty. The student groups then responded in the moment to probing questions from the guest panel and adapted their ideas. 

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