In Tamil Nadu, South India, there are more smartphones than toilets and 60% of people openly defecate. Prime Minister Modi and NGOs have created initiatives that have increased the number of toilets in India. Open defecation leads to sanitation related illnesses such as diarrhoea, malaria and in some cases death.
The UBS Optimus Foundation came up with an Innocentive Challenge that seeks to use educational mobile phone games about hygiene to persuade and bring about a behavioural change in children ages 5-14 and convince them to use toilets. More on the Innocentive Challenge here.
The Innocentive Challenge serves as a great way to engage students in learning to create code that matters to the world and sparked a collaboration between students at Prospect Hill Academy, Cambridge, USA and students at the summer camp of Robotix Learning Solutions, Tamil Nadu, India. Students used the Design Thinking approach to empathize and identify the problem of open defecation in India and ideate and brainstormed solutions for educational mobile games. Students exchanged insightful information to help them get children’s perspectives for the real-world problem and ideas for educational games. The collaboration allowed students to learn about the mindset of children in India and what kind of games children like and what interests them in order to drive the behavioural change necessary for improved health. Students plan to use MIT App Inventor to create educational mobile gaming apps.
Such challenges are great opportunities for students to practice their creative problem-solving skills and create real solutions that are useful and meaningful to the world.