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Tomball Star Academy Students Shine at DLR Group’s Student Innovation Challenge

Tomball ISD, represented by Tomball Star Academy, was one of just four districts in Texas chosen by the DLR Group to take part in the learning experiment, joining Allen ISD, Elgin ISD and Lubbock Cooper ISD.

TSA freshmen Rylan Bear, Matthew Nguyen, Chris Rojo and Erick Martinez were selected by Principal Kim McKinney and group leader and teacher Travis Ling to represent Tomball ISD.

In early January, the DLR Group presented the students with a challenge question relating to ‘how and where do you learn best?’ and were asked to create a two-minute video explaining their conclusion to the question in which focused on the ability to ‘learn everywhere at any time’.

Once they arrived in Austin a few weeks later, all four TISD students were able to collaborate with other districts through project-based learning and problem solve together in an effort to maximize their learning experience.

A second question from the DLR Group was presented: ‘How do you celebrate learning?’ The students were then asked to interview conference attendees, Superintendents and vendors and then generate their own guiding questions to create an 8-10 minute video answering the question within the two-day challenge. TSA students were able to reference back to ‘What is Learning’ and remind each other that celebrating small victories is important.

Each district was then tasked with presenting to a large audience in Austin, while fielding questions from industry leaders, educators and district administrators on their challenge findings.

“This experience was a challenge but we feel as though they did this in order to see how far we could push ourselves,” student Matthew Nguyen said.

The Innovative Challenge was a hands-on activity that allowed TSA students the opportunity to bond as classmates, practice public speaking and gain insight on different perspectives of real-world issues, presented by each participating district.

“It made us think a lot more. You can’t just think in one direction, there are many perspectives, different answers. For example, while watching the other district’s videos, I was thinking that each one had a different angle but all answered the question very well,” said Nguyen.

“Our students had to learn the true definition of teamwork. When it came down to crunch time, they had to work together,” said McKinney.

They had the opportunity to also interview other students as well as an effort to understand their take on learning, which provided a different meaning than what the adults had to offer.

“As adults, we have experiences that shape our thoughts in the way we go about things and as kids, they don’t have the same experiences, so their thought process isn’t limited by their experiences,” said McKinney.

The DLR Group experience allowed TSA students the opportunity to be challenged while promoting innovative thinking at the highest levels. It also provided educators with the opportunity to hear and understand the learning perspective from their students.

“As educators, we sometimes try and control the learning experience through lessons and whatnot. I will admit it was a little scary to relinquish control of the learning during this challenge but that is exactly what we had to do. Everything these students put together was created, implemented and produced by them and it was cool to see what they came up with,” McKinney said.

The Tomball Star Academy, Early College High School will provide a rigorous, supportive learning environment that blends high school and the first two years of college.  Students may earn up to 60 college credit hours and an Associates of Art degree by the time they graduate from high school free of charge.
  • Offers rigorous instructions & accelerated courses
  • Provides supportive learning environment
  • Increases college & career readiness
Tomball ISD educates students to become responsible, productive citizens by providing innovative, individually rigorous, and personally valuable educational experiences. Founded in 1908, Tomball ISD now encompasses 83 square miles in northwest Harris County and southwest Montgomery County, and is located approximately 30 miles from downtown Houston. The district currently educates over 16,000 students at 20 campuses.