WASHINGTON – The Washington State Department of Health launched a contest last month which gives high school students the opportunity to make a difference in their communities.
The contest is called the Washington Tracking Network Youth Science Contest. Students will have the option to participate in one of three categories. Health science, community engagement or science communication. Each category will have a different task, but with the same goal in mind – addressing equity issues within communities.
Students in the health science category will analyze data from the Washington Tracking Network, which is data complied together by the DOH. They will look for correlations, impacts and disparities in data.
Students in the community engagement category will address health and equity concerns and create a public policy proposal. They can also work with a local organization to improve a project or program they run.
Participants in the science communication category will choose an issue that’s important to them and develop a message to create awareness of the issue or inspire action.
Jennifer Sabel, who manages the WTN, said part of the motivation behind launching this contest is wanting to learn from the next generation of leaders.
“The youth are our future and are going to be going into positions that may use this data,” Sabel said. “We also want to see the new ideas that they generate and how we might be able to incorporate those ideas into the work that we do.”
According to DOH, students who participate in the contest will have the opportunity to develop a number of skills.
“The first track is really more about problem solving and using their math or statistics, computer programming and data visualization,” Sabel said. “The community engagement track is more about advocacy and public policy development.”
In developing the contest, DOH created an advisory board of high school students to tell them what they’d like to see in the contest.
“We wanted to hear about them about their capabilities and what they thought they could do with the data, It’s been a long time since we’ve been in high school and so everything’s changed,” Sabel said.
Registration for the contest is open until March 15 and students have until April 30 to finish their project.
Winners will be announced in June. There will be three winners in each category. Winners will be chosen based off how well they communicate data, whether they address disparities in data and whether they show the potential impact of using data to improve equity.