I think the only thing better than being in Miami in January is being in Miami in January for the Peds2040 conference. I was super excited to organized the Young Innovators Workshop again this year. We ended up having two days to work, and had 24 kids join us - double what we had last year. I think the most fun thing was that we had some amazing tech geniuses - Maribeth and Amy - from Georgia Tech University helping to facilitate.
This year we decided to take a targeted approach to the theme of the workshop - Game Theory, with an option to use augmented or virtual reality. Now, I am not a tech mind - I'm lucky if I can get my iMovie files to save. But after hearing what Maribeth was thinking about for the kids, I was really excited to see how everything would come together.
I had been concerned that the workshop wasn't going to come together. I had missed a lot of meetings and planning steps during the summer and fall while I was trying to regain my health. I wasn't able to solicit a big sponsor like I wanted to, and I wasn't able to promote the event on social media the way I had planned. I was sure that we were going to end up with like 3 kids at the event, with nothing to work on, and that I wasn't going to be able to make the trip. My co-leader also fell into health issues herself this summer and ended up needing to schedule surgery for right before the event so she was not able to attend or to plan the way she had planned either. It seemed like it may just all fall apart, and right before Christmas, I was sure that I was going to cancel. But as I realized that we really did have kids filling out their applications (leave it to kids to fill them out right before the December 24th deadline), and that Maribeth and Amy had prepped themselves to be able to help as much as they could, I started to feel like we may have a chance at pulling it all together in the end.
Boy was I right. We ended up with 24 participants, working in three groups, to build games that would help to solve some really challenging pediatric healthcare needs. Everyone got to participate and have their ideas heard. They were all able to come together as teams and really hash out some pretty advanced ideas, using some really creative and fun solutions. In the end we had three games that we could play together and see how kids' lives could be improved in a fun and entertaining way.
One of the things that I love about this workshop - and the reason that I wanted to do it in the first place - is that kids don't have a filter. By filter, I mean preconceived notions about what is and isn't possible. If they have an idea, they just put it out there. If it doesn't fit with the group, they come up with something else. Kids are way more flexible when it comes to working in groups, and it seems like they know exactly how to collaborate and work with others, even when their idea may not be the one that makes it to the final project. This inhibition leads to collaboration like no other - and it's something that the adults at the conference could - and SHOULD - learn a lot from.
In the end, each group presented their final projects to the other kids as well as parents and a few attendees of the conference. I put together a video of the days' events to show on the last day, but the last day is always low on attendees so it was a little like "preaching to the choir." But it's step in the right direction from last year, and the kids who attended are all really hoping that they can join us next year as well. My goal for next year is to make it so that the kids get to present their final projects to the whole conference so that everyone can see how really dedicated and creative they are, and how involving them in the innovations that iSPI is working on is the best idea to advancing the directive of the group.
I feel like I missed a lot of the conference this year, but in all honesty, I think that may have been a good thing. I was running on pure adrenaline to get through the two days of the kids workshop, and I'm not sure how I was standing at the end of it other than that. Now home, I'm tired and sore, but glad of it. I'm missing friends and thinking too hard, but glad of it. I'm formulating ideas and making plans, and for sure am glad of it! I'm feeling human again. And that in itself is all I need to be.