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Finding America’s Next Generation of Creative Thinkers

An Investigation of Competitions that Challenge High School Students to Embrace the Unknown


  • Preston Chen Flintridge Preparatory School



innovation, high school students, project-based learning


America is built on innovation, and our current education system for high school students is not fostering the creative talent needed to sustain that innovation. Existing efforts to teach and to inspire creativity come in the form of project-based learning inside the classroom and various programs outside the classroom. Benefits in student academic performance, adaptability, and engagement are most profound when students participate in competitions that have open-ended and ambiguous challenges. This paper investigates how three specific student competitions at the middle and high school levels (American Mathematics Competition, Robotics, Debate) foster creativity through difficult math problems, steep engineering constraints, and impromptu rebuttals, respectively. Formalizing student participation in such settings will not only address the lack of creativity but also increase a much-needed sense of belonging among high school students.



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