Shad Valley tackles child obesity

A Shad Valley student presents his group’s product to fight against childhood obesity: the Spincut. It’s meant to encourage kids to chop fruit and make salads instead of grabbing a bag of chips or cookies. (Toni Baggos Photo)

More than a quarter of Canadian children are either overweight or obese, but the number of teens trying to keep kids slim is rising.

The issue of child obesity was the focus of this year’s Shad Valley program hosted at Carleton University. The month-long program attracted 56 high school students from across the country who tackled the emerging health and social problem.

Shad Valley, which began in 1980 and has produced 22 Rhodes Scholars, targets students in grades 10 to 12 with affinities for math and science.

“One of the things we try to instill in them is a sense of opening up their entrepreneurial spirit,” says Kate Oakley, the program director at Carleton. “(Childhood obesity) is a very challenging topic to design a product for, but they rose to the challenge.”

She divided students into five groups as they arrived on July 1 and tasked each group to create their own product with a commercial, website and business plan.

The product Shad students chose as the best is made of three parts: an online community, a mobile application and a bracelet that connects to the Internet. The bracelet tracks exercise and earns points for its user to win prizes with in the online community. The app is a way to check points.

Shad Valley will feature it in a national competition against the best products from nine other universities that hold the summer camp. The winners of the national competition will be announced in October.

The program might patent other products developed during the Carleton Shad Valley, such as a bowl that makes salads and is designed like an animal to entice kids to use it. There’s also a scale that sits on kitchen counters to measure healthy portions and prevent overeating.

Shad students worked for two straight weeks on their products and days lasted from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

“It gets pretty tiring, but you can’t really afford to be tired because you just don’t want to miss anything,” says 16-year-old Hilary Hardwick, a member of the group that made the winning project.

Hardwick admits she came to Shad Valley because “it would look good for a resume.” She and the other students ended up gaining a lot more, Oakley says.

“We try to give them compassion to make the world a better place.”

http://shad.carleton.ca/

 

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