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Problem solved: Team to present project at state bowl, compete at internationals

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Community Problem Solvers class at Bridgeport Middle School identified an issue in their community, devised a plan to address it, executed the strategy and charted the results.

Now they’re taking that project to international competition.

Bound for Internationals

BOUND FOR INTERNATIONALS – The Bridgeport Middle School community problem solvers team, OMITS (Our Mission Is Traffic Safety), is preparing to present at the State Bowl next month and at international competition in June. Team members are (front, from left) Haley Barton, Halle Holbrook, Jadon Maddux, Dalton Huya, Kirby Russell, Micah Phillips, (back, from left) Cassady Craddock, Beka Powers, Katelyn Lanfear, Kyler Holley, Lane Whitsell, Sammy Davis, Bryson Morrow and coach Paula Shepherd. Not pictured is Jacob Marshall. Messenger photo by Erika Pedroza

After winning their category (education) and tying for second overall in the middle division of the Community Problem Solvers competition, the team is bound for the next level of competition in Iowa in June.

But first they’ll showcase their hard work April 11-13 at the State Bowl in Austin.

“All of the category winners were invited to the State Bowl to showcase and receive awards for their win,” coach Paula Shepherd said.

In addition to the exhibits, students will participate in a community service project as well as mock interviews and coaching sessions to prepare for internationals, which will be held at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, June 11-15.

“Y’all might be wondering why it’s going to be Iowa,” Kirby Russell said. “To be honest, I kind of thought that, too. Why not New York City or California or something like that? But Iowa State is very big on the community problem solvers stuff. That’s why we’re going to Iowa.”

But before they go, the class must first complete a public service announcement, a five-minute video and a trifold display to explain the project.

“They’ll take it to the community fair at the State Bowl pre-made for state,” Shepherd said. “At internationals it’s a timed part of your competition where they provide you the board and you take materials and your team has so much time to present the information.

At both events, students will swap mementos with other teams. The Bridgeport Area Chamber of Commerce donated pins for the BMS team to take.

However, some have already began networking with other qualifiers.

“They hashtagged CmPS and found other people who qualified,” Shepherd said. “I would’ve never thought about doing that, yet they’ve already found friends.”

Other nearby school districts who are sending teams include Colleyville and Midlothian.

THE ROAD

Work on the project began on the first day of school when students brainstormed some of the problems that face their school. The students surveyed their classmates and parents for ideas, compiling a list of 78 options.

Through meetings with administrators at the school and district level and in-class discussion, they whittled down the list before selecting the afternoon pick-up traffic flow procedures as the issue to address.

“We considered doing improvements to the library, but those are already in the works,” student Cassady Craddock said. “So then we thought about the Bull Pen (the school’s snack bar), but we really wanted to do something that would impact our community, not just the students. So we went with (the traffic flow).”

Students collected the needed data and devised a plan, which was refined through meetings with city officials, police officers and district administrators.

The plan, implemented in January, delays school buses and separates the locations where parents pick up their kids. Sixth- and seventh-graders are picked up on the straightaway in front of the school – dubbed “67 Straight” – while eighth-grade students, who make up the largest of the three classes at BMS, are picked up on the bus loop in front of the gym, aptly named “Loop 8″.

Students compiled data and outlined their work in a seven-page paper that, along with a scrapbook, was submitted for competition in February.

A few weeks later, the class learned of its success. In the middle division, the BMS team of mostly sixth-graders went up against teams of seventh- and eighth-graders and even freshmen in high school.

BY THE NUMBERS

At a data reporting meeting Thursday, the class presented its findings to school and district personnel and school board members.

Students reported that of the 34 people who took the survey, which was available on the school’s home page, 68 percent liked the split/delay plan while 18 percent dislike it and 14 percent were neutral.

On a day prior to the plan’s implementation, cars cleared the area at 3:48 p.m. and the last bus left at 3:55 p.m.

On a day after the plan was enacted, the cars cleared Loop 8 at 3:36 p.m., 67 Straight at 3:41 p.m. and the last bus left at 3:55 p.m.

“We discovered that the buses are leaving at the same time from the middle school, even with the delay,” said Jadon Maddux.

The purpose of the delay, classmate Beka Powers explained, is to allow plenty of time for cars to clear out to avoid the mixture of buses and personal vehicles in the loop.

In addition to the safety factor, the efficiency of the plan can also be measured in the amount of time saved.

“We noticed that our traffic was a lot better after because most of the cars were clearing out, which means most students were leaving around 7 or 8 minutes after the bell, which we thought was a great improvement,” Craddock said.

Police officers also noted there was less congestion at the stop signs at intersections near the school.

“Your plan is working,” said David Pewitt, BISD director of transportation. “Good job.”

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