A WINNER: Maxwell Gonzalez, far right, is the first OPRF student to win a design competition at the Global Student Summit in Davos. Teacher Tyrone Williams, sitting, has been taking students to the summit since 2015. Along with Gonzalez, OPRF students (left to right) Esteban Linarez, Khalil DeLaney, Katerine Reed, Oliver Green, Owen Osga, Tyler Hoyt and Jack Moller. | Photo provided

An Oak Park and River Forest High School student’s creativity is on display at the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm, Sweden after he and an international team of students finished first in a design competition at the annual Global Student Summit in Davos, Switzerland in July. 

Max Gonzalez, an OPRF senior, said his team’s winning project, called Spaced In, is based on the idea of a hearing device that monitors your brain waves. If you’re spacing out on a conversation, for example, the device vibrates and replays the last moments of the dialogue to bring you back up to speed. 

Gonzalez said he and his seven teammates developed the idea after interviewing roughly 50 people and learning about some of their communication challenges. The theme of this year’s summit, which drew roughly 1,500 students from across the globe, was “The Power of Communication.” 

“We found out that someone had trouble paying attention in conversation and so we came up with that idea,” Gonzalez said during a recent phone interview. 

Since 2015, OPRF teachers Tyrone Williams and Lindy Novotny have taken nearly 50 OPRF students to the annual Davos summit. This year, they took eight students. 

Every year they’ve gone, an OPRF student has been on a team that’s made it to the final round of competition. Gonzalez, however, is the first OPRF student to be on a winning team. Their work is on display at the Nobel Prize Museum through early 2020. 

“This is quite a big deal,” said Williams. “We had Max and his family fly to Sweden for four or five days to see the project. It’s prominently displayed. It’s not in the back or on some auxiliary floor. It’s actually in the main throughway, where all of the Nobel laureates’ ideas are displayed.” 

“Being able to see my work in the museum was amazing,” Gonzalez said. “I was able to actually see my handwritten notes at the museum and to experience Stockholm in a very interesting way.” 

Gonzalez said he also got to meet TV journalist Ann Curry as part of a mentorship program in photography that he completed at the conference. 

For Williams, who taught Gonzalez AP U.S. History, to learn in the classroom is one thing; to go beyond it is quite another. 

“I believe that, as educators, we can’t stop in the classroom,” Williams said. “I challenge myself to make the global local and the local global. Part of the mistake we make in North America is that we’re so hyper-sensitive and hyper-focused on what we’re doing here that we don’t really connect the dots between these larger things that impact people on the periphery of society. I try pushing my kids to think beyond Oak Park and River Forest, beyond Illinois, beyond the United States.”

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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