Students participate in the annual Meaningful Economics Competition hosted by the University of Delaware's Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship.

Meaningful economics

Students participate in center's annual Meaningful Economics Competition

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9:16 a.m., May 29, 2014--If you thought Keurigs and plastic gold filters have made paper coffee filters a thing of the past, think again. From filtration systems and custom hand-held fans to lampshades and taco holders, the students in this year's Meaningful Economics (ME*) Competition came up with a variety of new uses for Melitta Bentz's 106-year old patented product.

“Filter clean!” and “Eco-filters” take the once-disposable product and turn it into a sustainable water filtering solution without chemicals, while “Filtered Lights” repurposes both traditional and cone-shaped paper coffee filters into functional lampshades, available in a variety of colors.

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Held for four days over the past two weeks in Newark and Georgetown, these creative inventions were just some of the students' solutions to a problem-solving activity in the ME* Competition, which is designed to provide third through sixth grade students the chance to demonstrate their knowledge of economics, entrepreneurship and personal finance.

Students were tasked with creating a new use for paper coffee filters to help producers clear leftover inventories in a post-Keurig world. As part of that challenge, students needed to give the product or service a catchy name, determine their target market, outshine their competition, price the product and plan on modes of distribution and selling. They then needed to prepare a strategy and a commercial to present to a panel of professional judges.

Other student ideas included food-related products, like “Taco Mania,” a solution to “help hold your delicious tacos in a fun way,” and “Cupcake Creator,” a way for “creative cupcake eaters everywhere to design their own wrapper;” and storage solutions like “Paper Pocket,” a seed-carrying solution for gardeners reminiscent of a tool belt, and “Marble Bag,” to keep your marbles intact. 

Students also brainstormed self-cooling mechanisms like “Fantastic Fans,” custom-designed, hand held fans, and “The Hair Cup,” the latest fashion statement for holding long tresses in a bun. 

The problem-solving activity was just one part of the ME* Competition. During the event teams also participated in a written test and a production activity in which teams organized their members efficiently to make as many products as possible.

In this year’s production activity, teams worked to produce a matching card game of idioms and their meanings, all related to the use or lack of money. Students cut and assembled game packets while they learned about team management and job specialization, and were ultimately judged by the quality and quantity of their output.

One of the biggest lessons students were happy to share they learned from participating in the ME* Competition was about working in a group.

“Teamwork can help you do more than you could by yourself,” said Sandra Arian, a student at Jones Elementary School.

“It can help you get through anything,” added teammate Alana Sica, while fellow student Jimmy Pollock said working on a team helped them come up with ideas much more quickly.

This year marked the ME* Competition’s 28th run, and involved over 550 students on 91 teams from 18 schools across the state at the Newark event and 47 teams from seven schools at the Georgetown event.

The ME* Competition is sponsored by the University of Delaware’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, the Delaware Council on Economic Education and the Delaware Financial Literacy Institute in partnership with Bank of America and Discover. Volunteers and judges included employees from Capital One and JPMorgan Chase. 

Article by Kathryn Meier

Photos by Kevin Quinlan

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