BC High student teams win 'Innovation Challenge' prizes

From left: BC High Principal Adam Lewis; math teacher James Hutchison; Nico Bezzerides, Marvin Le, Tyler Kwong, and Matthew Hurley, all Class of ’23; BC High President Grace Cotter Regan; teachers Katie McKiernan and Colleen O’Hara. BC High photo

Marvin Le of Dorchester, a junior at BC High, was part of a team of students that won the top prize in the school’s inaugural Shields Innovation Challenge, aimed at prompting entrepreneurial thinking.

Le’s winning team – “Vert” – came up with an idea for how to provide necessary nutrients to low-income communities who rely on fast food and less healthy options due to convenience and low price.

The four students – Matthew Hurley, Tyler Kwong, Nico Bezzerides and Le – proposed using vertical hydroponics, farming with nutrient-rich water instead of soil. For their winning efforts, each of the students took home $1,000. 

The challenge was coordinated through the Shields Center for Innovation, which was established last year through a donation of $5 million by 1979 alumnus Jack Shields, founder and chairman of Shields Health Solutions.

“An important part of our school culture is to help students look at their opportunities for growth and to try new things,” said Grace Cotter Regan, BC High’s president. “The Shields Innovation Challenge is an opportunity to incubate innovative thinking, and for students to work together in developing creative solutions to real-life issues.” 

Winning teams were recently chosen during a presentation to a panel of expert judges including Stephen Spinelli Jr., president of Babson College; Raj Echambadi, Dunton Family Dean, D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University; Jane Swift, former Massachusetts governor and president and executive director of LearnLaunch; and Don Gummow ‘13, Innovation & Operations Analyst at Brigham & Women’s iHub Open Innovation Studio.

Taking second place – and $500 each – was “The Healthy Food Initiative” team made up of four BC High juniors –Yasin Khan, John Forry, Ricky Robinson, and Charlie Reitz. They proposed running a farmer’s market with leftover foods from restaurants, hospitals, and grocery stores to improve access to healthy food for low-income communities.

“We have been remarkably impressed with these student presentations,” said Shields. “They have embraced the ‘fail fast and iterate’ mentality that governs innovation. Just as importantly, the complexity and thoroughness shown in these projects demonstrated a keen awareness of the problems facing Boston residents, and that brings everything back to BC High’s Jesuit tradition – being men for others.” 

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