2013 grad, Meghan Shea one 20 national finalists in Microsoft challenge
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
BIRMINGHAM — A recent Unionville High School grad is one of 20 finalists in the Microsoft YouthSpark Challenge for Change, a national competition that encourages young people to submit ideas for positive social change in their communities — and if she wins, it could mean more science research opportunities for elementary and middle school students in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District.
A panel of six judges reviewed nearly 400 applications from young people aged 18 to 25, winnowing the field to 20, one of whom is Meghan Shea, 18, a township resident. Shea is the daughter of The Times’ Managing Editor Kathleen Brady Shea.
“The submissions we received address a wide range of social issues such as technology literacy, bullying, cancer awareness, public health and nutrition, education and tutoring, clean water solutions, climate change, art and music therapy, and STEM education,” said Yvonne Thomas, senior program manager of Microsoft YouthSpark.
The finalists were required to boil down their idea into a two-minute video, which will be posted on YouTube. Shea’s video focuses on a proposal to encourage science research in elementary and middle schools.
Members of the public will be asked to vote for their favorite change-maker for a week, starting Monday through June 24. One vote per day per person will be accepted. The top five vote-getters will win a three-week trip to do volunteer work in Kenya.
In addition, each grand prize winner will receive $2,500 to help start their project and have a chance to become a YouthSpark ambassador for Microsoft for a year.The five will also receive a Microsoft technology product bundle, including a Windows Phone device and an Xbox 360 with Kinect.
Shea, who has been doing research herself since middle school, is no stranger to being a finalist in national competitions; she was one of 40 national finalists selected in February in the Intel Science Talent Search for her creation of an inexpensive water filter for use in impoverished countries.
She said the idea for her Microsoft proposal grew out of the volunteer work she did with elementary students in an after-school science program at Unionville Elementary School. The Kenya trip greatly appeals to her since Africa is one of the places in dire need of inexpensive, clean water, Shea said.
“I have a really unique opportunity with this competition to fulfill my two main passions: working on my own water purification research and inspiring other students to research as well,” said Shea, who was named Best of The Class at Unionville for the Class of 2013. “Starting my mentorship program and visiting Kenya would be chances of a lifetime, but I can’t do it without the votes and support of the community!”
Shea said she hopes she has a winning idea, and she knows she had a winning video team, expressing gratitude for the invaluable expertise and help of fellow Unionville grads Adam Carl and Alan Dembek. They recently earned second place in a state competition for their short film “Chances of.”
The video also would not have been possible without the support of the entire Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, she said, especially the students and staff of Pocopson Elementary School and Charles F. Patton Middle School, where portions of the video were filmed.
To cast a vote, visit https://www.facebook.com/microsoftcitizenship?sk=app_321451377957291&app_data=322.