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The Student News Site of Xavier College Preparatory


The Student News Site of Xavier College Preparatory


The Student News Site of Xavier College Preparatory


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Xavier’s AP Computer Science Principles class pilots ASU’s Illuminate Innovation Challenge

Grace Thomas, XPress Staff
Xavier’s AP Computer Science Principles class taught by Leon Tynes poses outside of Arizona State University on its way to compete in the first-ever high-school-level Illuminate Innovation Challenge. Xavier was able to place first and third.

On January 31, 2023 Arizona State University Luminosity Lab invited Xavier computer science students to participate in the inaugural Illuminate Innovation Challenge. 

While Xavier is well-known for its reputation as “The Most Winning High School in Arizona,” with a trove of athletic championship titles, Xavier’s computer science department has collected accolades of its own. 

In 2022, Xavier won the College Board AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award. At Xavier, 100% of graduates know how to code with 130 students participating as active members in the national Computer Science Honor Society.

Xavier’s computer science department continues to expand and adapt with the rapid growth of technology in today’s society. Computer science provides fundamental and necessary knowledge to prepare young women for the 21st century.

The Illuminate Innovation Challenge is an innovation competition created to provide high school students with the opportunity to solve global problems and encourage participants  to exhibit their passion for creating technological solutions.

Teams of up to four students had to research and solve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #2: Zero Hunger. Sylvia Lopez, a primary organizer for the Illuminate Innovation Challenge, said, “We wanted to choose a prompt that would reflect the scale and line of thinking we hope to promote, but also one that had a more systemic or intangible solution.”

With this prompt or goal in mind, teams needed to design a product, system, or service that would contribute to reducing hunger in a community or around the world. 

Teams then contacted industry professionals and met at ASU’s Luminosity Lab to “dry-run” their presentations. Finally, teams presented their solutions and concept ideas.               

Leon Tynes, AP Computer Science Principles teacher said, “This year’s prompt was necessary, especially in Phoenix, with the food insecurity problem and homeless population faced daily. We are such a prosperous city, and, here at Xavier especially, we have a duty as Catholics and Christians to make sure people are safe and secure at a certain level.” 

Tynes was introduced to the competition by Mary Hintze, Xavier alumna and program manager of ASU’s Luminosity Lab. 

“Our Vanderploeg Scholarship Program had just begun in August of 2022 and we realized we needed a better way to connect with local Arizona high schools to gain interest in the scholarship and interest in the Luminosity Lab at ASU,” said Hintze. 

On March 28, 2023 four Xavier teams pitched their ideas to a panel of five judges, whose backgrounds ranged from engineering to sustainable agriculture and community development to finance to current ASU students. The audience consisted of over 100 other students (both high school and college), business investors, corporate owners, professors and educators. 

Prior to presenting, the Xavier teams met with corporate officers and community leaders from established businesses and they received products from companies nationwide, including Good Start Packaging, AJ’s Fine Foods, Walmart, and Kroger.

Xavier was awarded first and third place, with Hamilton taking second.

Lopez said planning for next year’s competition is already underway. “This year served as a trial run for what we hope to be a larger, more involved competition in the future. We wanted to choose a prompt that would reflect the scale and line of thinking we hope to promote, but also one that had a more systemic or intangible solution. This way, the competition could come to a more natural conclusion earlier in the process, whereas in the future we are hoping to extend the competition into a build phase,” Lopez said. 

Tynes said, “The process consists of a constant loop of feedback and iteration and changes, which I think students aren’t so sure about in the beginning. We interpret feedback as negative instead of being positive developmental stage. Getting past that is the biggest hurdle. Once students are past that and they understand feedback is positive and growth-inducing, it is a positive effect.”

Lopez closed by saying, “I was beyond impressed, but not surprised at all, by the poise, cohesion, professionalism, and passion everyone had in their pitches. While ASU and Luminosity have always been involved and hands-on with the future generations, this is the most involved I have seen students so young be with the Expo and the lab. I think a lot of Luminosity people were excited and filled with hope for the future when seeing what visions you all had for the world.” 

Tynes said that his plans for the future entail the following: “Next year, I will try to find more global competitions, because I think it needs to be a part of our educational process. We have so many students here who take advanced and AP courses, and they need to know how to synthesize the knowledge into these project-making activities.”

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