MARK LESCHINSKY REFLECTS ON THE IMPACT THAT UA'S OUTREACH PROGRAMS HAVE HAD ON HIS LIFE & ON WINNING THIS YEAR'S ZIP PITCH COMPETITION
The University of Akron’s Akron Global Polymer Academy (AGPA) first connected with Mark Leschinsky through their annual Rubber Band Contest for Young Inventors, where he twice finished as the runner-up in the student competition’s Science & Engineering Division. The AGPA has always admired Mark’s creative thinking and his desire to help solve real-world problems. That’s why it was no surprise to the AGPA when Mark informed them that he was selected as a winner in another competition for students hosted by The University of Akron called Zip Pitch. His winning entry was a documentary film taking a narrative look at the impact of the COVID-19 as it’s currently being experienced by several youth. The AGPA recently helped Mark spread the word about his new film through a featured article on their K-12 STEM outreach website.
UA’s Zip Pitch is a pitch competition where high school and middle school students in grades seven through twelve can win cash prizes for their big ideas. This year’s competition challenged students to focus their pitches on ideas related to creating a for-profit business or ideas related to ways that communities can respond to the current coronavirus crisis. Students were required to upload a video of themselves giving a pitch in four minutes or less. The competition had two separate divisions for students in grades 7-8 and grades 9-12.
The AGPA was able to connect with Mark and he took some time to answer a few questions about his winning entry for the Zip Pitch Competition, as well as sharing about his experiences with UA’s outreach programs. You can read and watch Mark’s reflections through an essay and a video he created below.
Hello my name is Mark Leschinsky and I’m an 8th grade student from New Jersey. I’d like to share my experience about two outreach programs at The University of Akron that I participated in: “The Zip Pitch Competition” and “The Rubber Band Contest”.
I learned about the Zip Pitch Competition at the beginning of May 2020 from Dr. Paula Watt, the Director of Outreach at the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering at The University of Akron. I was very happy to learn about this competition especially now during the coronavirus quarantine when school was online and many activities that we used to participate were cancelled. Participating in this competition was a great way for me to come up with creative ideas and share them with others.
The Zip Pitch competition was created by the EXL Center for Entrepreneurship and Civic Engagement at the University of Akron, The SEED Legal Clinic, The University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF), and Fitzgerald Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. Reading the eligibility requirements, I was happy to learn that ANY Student in grades 7 to 12 could participate in this competition which was very important for me, because I live in New Jersey which is very far away from The University of Akron. I was very happy that The University of Akron gave this opportunity to students all across America.
The competition had 2 categories that students can participate: 1) Ideas to create a for-profit business and 2) Ideas for how the community can respond to the COVID-19 crisis. I submitted my ideas to both categories.
For the business category, I submitted my idea of a self-disinfecting reusable protective suit for healthcare workers that can better protect them from COVID-19 and for the community response category I submitted a short documentary film “We the Children” that I created about students' perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic is especially hard on people because of social distancing. Many people feel isolated sitting at home, they don’t have anyone to talk to and share their feelings and this can have significant impact on mental health. This is where the communities can come together to help develop the blogs and other social media sharing platforms where people can share their experiences with the pandemic, post their videos of support and encouragements etc. 21 students of different ages and backgrounds participated in my film. It’s is very inspirational and uplifting.
About 2 weeks after I submitted my ideas, I got an email from Annal Vyas, Co-Director of the EXL Center for Entrepreneurship and Civic Engagement at the University of Akron that I was selected as a winner with my documentary film “We the Children” about student’s perspectives on COVID-19 pandemic. I was super happy and excited about that.
I’m also VERY GRATEFUL to The University of Akron for the Rubber Band Contest administered by the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering’s K-12 STEM Outreach Group, the Akron Global Polymer Academy. I participated in this competition twice when I was in 5th and 7th grade with my ideas of “One Pill No Spill Medicine Bottle” that helps people who have tremor in their hands take only one pill at a time from the medicine bottle and “The Fire Eye” Idea that alarms people when the is a fire in the house. The Rubber Band Contest was one of the first science competitions that I participated, and it really inspired me to invent and look at problems in a creative way. My experience with this competition inspired my younger brother and sister to invent as well.
Overall, I’m very grateful to The University of Akron’s outreach programs that are reaching out to students across America and inspiring them to be creative and think outside the box.
I also want to thank these amazing people at The University of Akron who make all these competitions happen: Dr. Paula Watt and Jason Miller at the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering at The University of Akron, Annal Vyas, Co-Director of the EXL Center for Entrepreneurship and Civic Engagement and Dr. Joseph Fox for their outstanding efforts to engage students in the programs that help students achieve their full potential and develop confidence in themselves by inspiring them to be creative, invent, develop business skills and think outside the box.
Thank you! - Mark Leschinsky
To learn more about the Zip Pitch Competition, which is presented by The EXL Center, The SEED Legal Clinic, The University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF), and Fitzgerald Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, please visit the official contest website: uakron.edu/exl/events/pitch.
To learn more about the Rubber Band Contest, which is sponsored by the Rubber Division, ACS and the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering at The University of Akron, please visit the official contest website: rubberbandcontest.org.
To learn more about the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering and its STEM outreach programs, visit: uakron.edu/polymer/outreach/.