Museum of Innovation Challenges Youth to Help Solve Water Issues

The Tech Museum of Innovation, one of the nation’s premier science and technology museums, recently announced the 21st annual Tech Challenge for Northern California youth. The program challenges young people in grades 5-12 to create a solution to a real-world problem, and this year's Challenge addresses the worldwide need for safe, clean drinking water, and better access to this necessary resource. Participants must design a simple device to move water from a stream up to a village on a hill without the benefit of electricity.

“Our goal at The Tech is to both inspire the innovator in everyone and at the same time raise awareness and find solutions for some of the greatest challenges facing communities around the world,” said Peter Friess, president of The Tech. “For as long as mankind has existed, moving water from a lower level to a higher level has been one of our most critical challenges. This is validated each year by our Tech Museum Awards program, which is all about the use of technology to benefit humanity; year after year, moving water or providing clean water is the focus of multiple projects. We want to help sensitize our youth to these global issues and give them the confidence at an early age that they have the ability to shape the future.”

Over the 20 years of the Tech Challenge, some 11,000 youth from across Northern California have honed their creative problem solving and teamwork skills, building a range of devices to fight wildfires, remove invasive fish from a lake, explore an Egyptian tomb or survey craters on Mars. In this year’s Challenge, the water-mover needs to be powered by the flow of the stream since there is no available electricity in many places around the world.

Students' efforts are recognized and celebrated during the Tech Challenge Day, scheduled for May 3, 2008 in Parkside Hall, adjacent to The Tech Museum. Awards range from “Best Overall Solution” to “Most Spectacular Failure.

Participating in the Tech Challenge
Tech Challenge is a team activity open to children in grades 5 – 12. Teams can range in size from 2 to 6 people. The Challenge is not limited to school groups and classes – teams of young people from all walks of life can participate. Each team is required to have an adult team supervisor to help support and guide the project. If needed, The Tech can help teams secure an advisor. Beginning in February 2008, The Tech will offer information clinics, workshops and open trials to all participants, teachers, parents, advisors or other interested parties.

In connection with the new Tech Challenge, The Tech has created a practice platform in the museum, intended to give young people a place to experiment with moving water from one place to another. This practice area can be found in the IDEA House exhibit on the lower level of the museum, and everyone is welcome to come and brainstorm ideas for water-moving solutions.

Registration is now open on the Tech Challenge web site at; the deadline to sign up is March 31. Cost for a team to participate is $40 before February 28, and $50 after that date. Group discounts and financial assistance are available. Registered participants can enjoy a free trial membership at The Tech through May 31, 2008.

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