Paradigm Challenge experience

This is a guest post by Year 11 Student Tulsi Lathia on the experience she had winning an innovation award with her brother and two collaborators from Rajkot India.

In June last year, I found out that my team (Ignited We Unite) and I had won first place in our division in the first annual Paradigm Challenge. This is a competition which encourages youth to innovate an idea for a new issue every year, last year it was house fires. At first, it was unbelievable as we had been chosen out of thousands of entries by a panel of blue ribbon judges. With the immense honour of winning first place came an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles for the award ceremony and twenty thousand dollars to chase our dreams. My family and I were due to fly to Los Angeles on 21st July after weeks of arrangements and packing. As the day came I realized the true extent of this achievement. I was off to Los Angeles to attend a black-tie event where my team and I would be recognised and interviewed by many big organizations. This realization made me even more excited for what awaited me.

After a tedious sixteen hours, we finally reached our destination and were greeted by the CEO of Project Paradigm, Jeff Richardson. The day went by in meeting and mingling with the other amazing teams that had made it there and the challenge ambassadors. All of us were instantly friends, with the love of science being our holding point. The next morning, we were all ready for a day of interviews and lesson plan making with a rewarding visit to Disneyland at the end. We breezed through the interviews, which included many questions on my team’s international collaboration as we were the only ones to do so out of 50,000 participants. While teams were being interviewed, all others waited downstairs playing a friendly game of Uno or chatting about where they were from. Finally, after lunch the time had come to go to Disneyland. Two hours through Los Angeles traffic we were there and had the best evening ever. We rode on uncountable rides, took pictures, met our childhood favourites and had a great afternoon overall.

The third day, the day of the award ceremony, started with a trip to Santa Monica beach to relax followed by time to discuss the award ceremony and get ready. At five we were all dressed up in our smart tuxedos and fancy dresses, and were shortly greeted by the limousine that would take us to The California Science Centre for the ceremony. On reaching the centre, my team and I proudly stepped out onto the red carpet giving our best smiles to the camera, feeling like celebrities. After a promising dinner under the great Endeavour space shuttle and meeting with many interesting and influential people including former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman, we started the presentations. Each team spoke on their idea/innovation and were presented with their cheques by Jeff Richardson as the audience, especially our parents applauded with pride. This was one of the proudest moments I have ever experienced. We ended the evening with some photos and short interviews on how things had been for the past days.

Early next morning, all the teams got ready for goodbyes. There was crying, promises to meet again and a lot of hugs. In such a short time, we had made so many connections that were unbreakable. This was an unforgettable experience of a lifetime for each of us and will always be one of the greatest highlights of my high school years.

Rangi Life