NIU team takes part in AMITA challenge

Oluseun Taiwo, Jarin Tasnim, Michael Potoniec and Mi Chen

A team of NIU students put their classroom knowledge to the test during the inaugural AMITA Health Design Challenge held last month at Arlington International Racecourse.

“Everyone learns when they can apply classroom knowledge to a real-world situation,” said Renique Kersh, associate vice provost for Engaged Learning and Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning director. “It is experiences like the AMITA challenge that not only challenge students to solve an important societal issue, but it also teaches them the importance of bringing diverse perspectives to the table.”

The two-day design challenge was aimed at generating ideas to improve the health of our nation’s aging population. The NIU team of Oluseun Taiwo, Jarin Tasnim, Michael Potoniec and Mi Chen was one of a dozen representing area colleges and universities.

The students arrived Saturday morning and took part in a series of activities that included workshops and mentoring sessions aimed at generating ideas to improve seniors’ health.

“They were put into a situation where they could not sleep for 24 hours and had to use every resource available to them in order to come up with a solution,” Kersh said. “That’s real. Sometimes we don’t have weeks to prepare. Experiences that teach us learned resourcefulness and those that require us to rely on the contributions of others often lead to personal growth.”

Kersh said the more students can engage in experiences like this, the better prepared they will be to be leaders and scholars in their field. And while the NIU team did not advance to the finals, they won in other ways.

“Students were able to gain confidence in their ability to tackle an important issue and they not only learned from the others on the team, but that they learned from their competitors,” Kersh said. “Even without winning the cash prize, the students win the knowledge and experience gained and that is a big deal.”

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