In early January, roughly 100 Duke students did something most college students never want to do: They came back from winter break early. But they had a very good reason. Twelve undergraduate teams competed in a 48-hour challenge at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business to come up with innovative ways to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in both the U.S. and India. Their final proposals were full of inventive ideas, including a program where students would repair bicycles and a tutorial program where older students would teach younger students via video. But the first-place team went the extra mile, designing an online platform similar to Pinterest, called “STEM Pals,” which could help students gain STEM problem-solving skills while providing resources to teachers. STEM Pals would feature “lessons in a box,” kits with materials to create water filters, lamps or latrines, which could then be used to help needy neighborhoods near the schools. “We use these kits to spark an interest in project-based learning,” first-place team member Andrew De Donato told The Herald Sun. As its name suggests, the platform would also feature a pen-pal component, connecting schools in the U.S. with schools in India. De Donato and another winning-team member, Jenna Karp, said they would like to see STEM Pals come to life. The $1,500 in prize money awarded by Duke may help them do just that.

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