REGION — On Wednesday Feb. 6, the Telstar Freshman Academy (TFA) students presented their final projects to various members of the community in a Think Tank panel forum. The projects stemmed from their Innovation, Collaboration and Communication unit of study.

The effort started with groups of students finding a local issue in Oxford County or Maine that is impacting people nationwide. From there students started researching their topics and coming up with solutions for them.

Students chose problems focusing on substance abuse, plastic pollution, mental health in teens, mobility for the elderly, food insecurity/clean water and trail maintenance.

One group designed a robot to help elderly people do their daily tasks around the house.

There were 15 groups total, with most consisting of three students.

During their presentation, students fielded questions from the panelists and provided strong answers back to them. Even if they did not know a question, they were quick to say that more research would be done.

Giving the students an opportunity to present will only benefit them more in the future, and many panelists were already impressed with how well the students interacted.

“The Think Tank presentation at the Freshman academy were all well done. I was happy to be involved and get a firsthand look at the program,” panelist Jim Largess said.   “Two things that struck me the most were how well the students and teachers interacted and the real world feel of the presentations. It felt much more like a business setting then an academic presentation.”

“It was a pleasure to participate in the Telstar program. The student projects were well focused on issues of impact to our local communities- transportation, addiction, elder issues and mental health,” Senator Lisa Keim said. “Of lasting value is that this exercise brought the students to a place of practically considering the barriers that exist to getting help, and they were stretched to think creatively on ways to better the life of another.”

“I think any opportunity kids have to be able to present their work and public speak in front of a larger audience is really important,” school board director Sarah DeCato said. “I think for kids who struggle with public speaking, that this was a great venue for them to practice in.”

Another panelist, co-founder of Infonomics Data, Brian Gagnon, wanted to offer a group of students internships because of how well their presentations went. The group of students created an app that is supposed to help with addiction. The idea behind the app is to have addicts go on and talk about their addiction with other addicts, and also help each other set goals work toward. The app would leave peoples names anonymous.

4-H Professional Educator Tara Pocock said the students created and decoded the app on a program.

The next unit the students will do is “exploration and discovery”, which will involve studying parts of English, history and science.

The TFA will be traveling to Washington D.C. at the end of the March, and much of what they do there will be connected to the current curriculum they are studying.

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