Promoting Creative Use of Technology for Student-Led Social Change – Digital Promise

Promoting Creative Use of Technology for Student-Led Social Change

Students pose with a banner of their school

December 6, 2023 | By

The Ciena Solutions Challenge is a global design challenge by Digital Promise and Ciena that invites middle and high school students to design solutions that address Sustainable Development Goals within their communities. This blog post is part of a series featuring educators whose students’ projects exemplify core elements of the Challenge: creative use of technology, social purpose, student agency and leadership, and sustainability and scaling. Below are lessons on “creative use of technology” from educator Anni Kumar who facilitated Ciena Solutions Challenge project teams at Vikas Bharati Public School in Delhi, India.

Hands-On, Inquiry-Based STEM Learning

Located in a vibrant community, Vikas Bharati Public School fosters a holistic approach to education that goes beyond traditional classroom learning. Educators at our school are passionate about creating a dynamic learning environment that encourages curiosity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Recognizing the importance of hands-on, inquiry-based learning, I regularly mentor students on STEM projects that encourage students to think critically, collaborate, and solve real-world problems. Many of these projects also address the Sustainable Development Goals, including those featured in the Ciena Solutions Challenge project gallery such as AC Power Optimiser, Agro Tech, AI Sensor Boat for Protecting Aquatic Animal and Water Quality, IOT-WSN Connected Bins, and Anna Rakshak.

A student poses with his prototype

Student prototype on display.

A Look at the Anna Rakshak Project

In the Anna Rakshak project, student teams noticed the stark contrast between the abundance of food available to them and the food insecurity experienced by many individuals and families in their community. Feeling compelled to address the issue, they conducted research on the causes and consequences of food waste and food insecurity and delved into volunteering and discussions with initiatives such as local food banks, community organizations, and soup kitchens aimed at reducing waste and improving access to nutritious food.

The team initially aligned their work with Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger. By working on food waste reduction initiatives, raising awareness, and supporting small-scale farmers and community organizations, students aimed to contribute to a community where everyone has access to adequate and nutritious food, reducing hunger and fostering a more resilient and inclusive society. As students discussed and identified the key issues they wanted to address, they soon realized that their topic related to multiple Sustainable Development Goals beyond Goal 2, including Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, Goal 14:Life Below Water, and Goal 15: Life on Land.

Students studied data, reviewed case studies, and explored successful initiatives from other communities to understand the multiple factors contributing to related issues like food waste, food insecurity, environmental degradation, and limited access to electricity. To ensure their project was community-oriented, students involved local community members and organizations, and sought guidance from individuals and institutions affected by food waste, lack of electricity, and climate change.

With a solid plan in place, the students began implementing their project by raising awareness about food waste reduction, food security, and sustainable farming practices through campaigns, workshops, and seminars. They also collaborated with small-scale farmers to develop innovative farming techniques that reduce spoilage of food grains. Recognizing the power of collective action, students collaborated with schools, community organizations, and local government agencies to expand the reach and impact of their project. They presented their prototype to like-minded individuals, sought funding opportunities, and aimed to scale their initiatives, regularly evaluating their progress and adjusting their strategies along the way based on feedback from the community.

Their continued efforts have sparked conversations, inspired others to take action, and gained support from various stakeholders. Currently, the team is working to convert their prototype into a product so that they can take it to farmers who have to sell grains at lower prices due to current inefficiencies with grain storage.

“Through our project on food grain waste reduction, we realized the power of technology in creating change. Our prototype is a great help for small-scale farmers who were not able to store their grains for longer duration.” – Anna Rakshak Student Project Team

In the future, the Anna Rakshak team hopes to collaborate with the Food Corporation of India to further modify the project so that it can be used in large granaries and further minimize the spoilage of food grains.

Supporting Student Creativity and Innovation

Our school hosts a tinkering lab where students can explore and develop various AI, Internet of Things (IoT), and STEM projects. As part of the lab, my colleague, Mr. Arun, and I have created a collection of open source software, sensors, microcontrollers, and other tools that are freely available to students. As students develop their understanding of the practical applications of these components, their imaginations are sparked and they become motivated to brainstorm and address real-world problems within their communities.

Two students work on a laptop and with their circuit boards

Students collaborate to test their device.

Our senior students also play a key role in assisting younger students through peer-to-peer learning. They generously shared their knowledge and expertise, helping each other overcome challenges and master the required skills. This collaborative approach fostered continuous learning and skill-building among all the students. Together, students researched various tools and technologies using free online tutorials and courses through platforms like,, and

“By leveraging free online learning platforms and collaborating with classmates, we taught ourselves coding and developed a STEM project using Arduino to prevent the wastage of electricity. It was empowering to realize that technology is a tool we can wield to shape a sustainable future.” AC Optimizer Student Project Team.

Recognizing the students’ passion and hard work in their projects, the principal arranged online and in-person sessions with mentors and experts who had prior experience with the tools and technologies relevant to the students’ projects. Mentors offered guidance, and shared best practices and insights that helped the students effectively develop their skills. These interactions provided students with guidance on specific tools and technologies, and a deeper understanding of their functions and potential applications for the problems they seek to address.

Two students collaborate on a device at their workstation.

Students develop their project in the school tinkering lab.

Leveraging Technology to Extend our Reach and Impact

Our students have harnessed the power of social media campaigns, online awareness initiatives, and a mobile app to extend their project’s to a wider audience, including to individuals who may not have been easily reachable through traditional methods. Collaboration platforms, video conferencing tools, and instant messaging apps allowed for swift and efficient communication, ensuring smooth coordination, timely updates, and prompt decision-making. Their online resource hub served as a centralized platform where community members could access educational materials, recipes, and guidelines. Technology empowered the team to widely disseminate valuable information, equipping individuals with the knowledge and tools needed to address the identified issues. Through data analysis tools and software, the team could track and analyze patterns of food waste and electricity wastage, measure progress, and identify areas for improvement. This data-driven approach enabled them to make informed decisions, fine-tune their strategies, and demonstrate the effectiveness of their initiatives to stakeholders and funders.

“As educators, our role is to embrace students’ individuality, nurture their strengths, and provide them with the tools to paint their own masterpiece in the world.”

A number of our student teams continue to work towards enhancing their projects and converting their prototypes into products that can benefit others. In addition to the example of the Anna Rakshak grain storage solution, the student team working on the AC Optimizer project are also working to collaborate with different offices and educational institutions, including one that has already agreed to install the AC Optimizer in their classroom so students can receive additional feedback to enhance their product.

Learn more on the Ciena Solutions Challenge Website

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