Putting their heads together

Contributed photoPeter Anjorin, senior manager of corporate strategy and business development at Whirlpool Corp., left, talks to students at Lakeshore High School on Sept. 13. He is mentoring a team of students at Lakeshore’s Math and Science Center for the 2016 Innovation Challenge.

STEVENSVILLE — How can people reduce the amount of food waste in their homes?

This is a problem about 100 Lakeshore High School Math and Science Center students are working to solve with help from Whirlpool Corp. mentors through the Benton Harbor company's 2016 Innovation Challenge.

"Our Math and Science Center students are put in teams of about four students, and they have to come up with an innovative way to meet that challenge," said Principal Brad Brunner.

He said this is the first year Whirlpool is doing the program with Lakeshore High School. For the past five years, the challenges have been done with Penn High School students in Mishawaka, Ind.

"We want to give back to the community, and we want to train the next generation," said Ellen Dutton, product marketing manager at Whirlpool and coordinator of the program.

She said there are 20 teams at Lakeshore High School who are developing ideas. She said the teams will pitch their ideas to Whirlpool employees in late October, where the teams will be whittled down to 10 finalists.

Those 10 teams will go to Notre Dame's Innovation Center in South Bend, Ind., for feedback from entrepreneurs before presenting their final plans to Whirlpool executives in December.

A big difference with the Lakeshore High School program is that Whirlpool is providing a mentor to work with each team. She said there were no mentors in the program with Penn High School students.

Math and computer science teacher Jon Woodard said the Whirlpool mentors are teaching the students that they need to survey the consumers first before they start developing a product.

"If there's no consumer that wants to buy that product because they don't think that's the problem, then the product doesn't sell," he said.

Brunner said some of the teams have already mailed out surveys as they gather information.

Math teacher Kim Landeck said the problem can be solved in many different ways.

"Students have to research, they have to come up with a plan and then, they develop their idea and they'll present it," she said.

Brunner said that during this pilot year, Lakeshore students are competing with each other. The long-term goal is to have all of the high schools in the area competing against each other. 

"This is a wonderful opportunity for our students," said science teacher Lynda Smith. "There'll perhaps be opportunities for summer internships or other things. ... We're excited because it gives out kids a chance to go through an engineering process and really develop it for a consumer. We think that will be a really valuable skill for them." 

Lakeshore's Math and Science Center is a four-year program for students with an aptitude for science and math. Students apply to the center no later than March of their eighth-grade year. 

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege