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Urban Prep students win top prize at ComEd Ideathon

ComEd Concluded Annual Ideathon with Final “Spark Tank” Projects Presented by Students to Panel of Judges

The Second Annual ComEd Ideathon awarded students from Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men the top prize of $2,000 for their innovative technology concept that turns an everyday park into a digital playground of the future. The digital playground allows for neighborhood sign-ups, increased security, weather warnings and the ability to track attendance.

Winning criteria for the student prototypes in a “Spark Tank” competition included the potential to deliver community benefits related to health, safety, sustainability, connectedness, mobility, efficiency and education.


Ideathon Photo 2000 dollars
STUDENTS FROM Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men were the top winners. Photographed from l-r: Akil Muhammad, Brandon Black, Alex Linzy and Khalid Harun (mentor) were awarded first place for their Digital Playground prototype. *Not Pictured: Jayden Shorter*

Students Brandon Black, Alex Linzy and Akil Muhammad were one of 15 teams that participated in this year’s ComEd Ideathon, an educational program in which high school students in Bronzeville form teams to learn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) technology and partake in a friendly competition. Since Ideathon’s kickoff in January, students have been working with mentors to learn how to use microprocessors and develop sensors that can relay helpful information and enable a community to function efficiently, sustainably, reliably and more safely.


“Ideathon emerged from the desire to help inspire high school students to learn about emerging technology, yet we are the ones who have been inspired by the students’ innovative ideas,” said ComEd, Vice President of Technical Services, M. Michelle Blaise, also a judge of this year’s competition. “We are so proud of the commitment and determination in each and every one of the students who participated in this year’s Ideathon. While three teams received awards, all the students truly are winners.”

Mykiah Jordan, Taneisha Spiller and Tynessa Spiller from Young Women’s Leadership Charter School of Chicago won second place and were awarded $1,000. The all-female team developed a sanitizer that would sanitize public transportation to help reduce the possibility of contracting an illness and spreading it further by using a timing device to distribute an aerial disinfectant to eliminate germs.

Sydney Cason, Imani Smith and Gleenisha White, also from Young Women’s Leadership Charter School of Chicago, placed in third and received a prize of $500 for developing a gunshot detection system that would help improve the safety and security of neighborhoods. Their idea uses sound frequency detection of gunshots to notify civilians through a GPS system of a dangerous area and blinking lights for those who do not own smartphones.

Other student prototypes ranged from smart canes for the sight-impaired to smart sidewalk salt-dispensers for winter safety to smart vests for first responders.

Ideathon Photo 1 JUDGING COMM
IDEATHON JUDGES LISTEN as a team presents their innovative prototypes.

To help facilitate the Ideathon student working sessions, ComEd partnered with college mentors and engineers from Accenture, AECOMM, Burns & McDonnell, Gray Matter Analytics, KDM Engineering, SDI Presence, Illinois Tech, and the National Society of Black Engineers.

Ideathon is part of ComEd’s Bronzeville Community of the Future initiative, which is focused on leveraging smart grid technology and collaborating with residents to explore the potential to enhance everyday life. Other Community of the Future initiatives include a microgrid that will enhance the security and resiliency of the electric system; an electric vehicle transportation service for seniors; off-grid wind and solar LED streetlights; a community energy storage pilot; a smart interactive kiosk that provides real-time information along with emergency alerts, wayfinding and public Wi-Fi; and sensor-based technologies that are being piloted in conjunction with Illinois Tech.


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