iCAN Summit - Children Making a Change - Rachel Zajdel & Tayler Fane

Team triALL, one of the centennialX student teams, has been tasked with tackling obstacles in today’s society. The team is working with Eli Lilly’s Joe Kim and iCAN to develop a solution that enhances the communication between pediatric clinical trial researchers and the advocacy chapters. Their goal is to create a more personal connection so the children patients feel a sense of reassurance and that the feedback they give is being used to improve clinical trials.

Team triALL  began their groundbreaking journey to Orlando, Florida on Thursday, July 13. Assigned with the task of hosting a presentation at a summit in front of iCAN chapters in order to gain insight on the issues with patient-doctor communication, time and effectiveness was a huge challenge. The team was given only one hour to get as much information as possible while providing the chapters with an enjoyable, interactive experience.

At the summit, the Team triALL created a presentation that would enable them more feedback and information from the patients and advocates. With interactive activities like thought clouds, where the kids could express issues they face while in clinical trials. Team triALL would then use this information to generate a solution for the most prominent challenge.

The chapters agreed that the main source of communication currently is through surveys, however that system was found to be ineffective. Regarding some of the frustrations, triALL member Alessia Martusciello commented “Once they give this feedback to the researchers, they don’t really hear back what they do with the information, and they’re saying ‘okay why did we even give it to you, we don’t know if you’re even listening’.”

TriALL’s presentation was a success as all attendees were intrigued and engaged throughout the hour. The energy in the room was astonishing and reflected the passion and dedication that the chapters and triALL put into iCAN. The information gained was essential in advancing the problem-solving process, and the connections were ones to last a lifetime. Team member Spencer Fairall remarked, “Even though we brought back all of this information, one of the most enriching parts was talking to people.”    

Team triALL is currently taking that feedback from the summit and continuing to brainstorm and figure out pathways that will lead them to their end solution. This challenge is something that really inspires the students to make a difference in the lives of those facing clinical trials and impacting generations to come.

“We were inspired going into this, but sitting across from someone who says ‘I’m a cancer survivor’ or ‘I have a rare disease’, it’s just so personally touching.” -Will Clift

Accelerating Generations - Tayler Fane

Thursday, July 6th. The day marking the invigorating start of our future doing real work for real problems. Consisting of iCan, PRA Pediatric Research, PRA Rare Diseases, Accelerator, and the MIT Bike Team, CentennialX creators are filled with blossoming ideas and rising nervousness. The creators are crunched for time as they each discover more and more about their challenges and find effective and swift ways to help people around the world.

PRA Rare Diseases, constructed of both Upper Dublin (Team Axon)  and William Tennent students (Team Sparse), are trying to find a way to connect patients struggling with rare diseases, doctors that could treat them, and researchers that are working to help find a cure or solution for these rare diseases. “It’s difficult.” said Jamie Prince from Upper Dublin, “There’s no set direction to take and there’s a lot of unanswered questions.”

Another team working with PRA Health Sciences, Team Fathom, is trying to find a way to simplify medical processes and clinical trials for children, thus enabling them to gain an understanding of the procedures that they may undergo. Team Fathom is considering making either an app or a tangible object that is interactive and teaches the child the information they need to know while also maintaining his/her attention.

Partnered with Eli Lilly and the International Children’s Advocacy Network (iCAN), Team triALL is looking to advance and improve the relationships with pediatric patients and their doctors to ensure that any and all children are receiving the best care that they can get. Traveling to Orlando, Florida next week, Team triALL is leading a brainstorming session to gather information from advocates and try to incorporate their ideas when creating their solution. Although they’ve had some minor setbacks, they are still determined to work with the resources they have and create a better experience for children around the world. Their ultimate goal is to give our future generation the voices to shift and reform the medical field.

Connecting with a previous challenge, Team Ignite is working to accelerate the solutions that were created last year. The goal was to create a kit that effectively taught children about a specific disease of the groups’ choice. The challenge this year, however, is using those kits to create an even better product that achieves the same goal and is available for schools and hospitals to purchase and use.

The final team, Team Uili (pronounced ‘wheel-y’) has a challenge quite unique. Partnered with MIT, this team was asked to improve the lives of cyclists by creating some type of product that eliminates some problems they may face. After visiting the Keswick Cycle Shop in Glenside, PA, and surveying cyclists on their email list, they found the most common issues amongst bike riders is safety, weather, and repairs. Considering the team (unfortunately) cannot control the weather and they have such a small time frame, they wanted to focus on safety and apparel. By narrowing in on one issue, Team Uili decided to design an athletic sock line that combines breathable fabric, reflective material, and style to create the ultimate sock for cyclists. Their goal is to create a prototype for the sock and hopefully get their product on the market.

All teams share the same bittersweet feeling of the start of a new, unknown path. The possibilities are absolutely endless, giving each group dozens of different routes to take. Although each team varies, they all have one thing in common: the ability to change the world.

Catalyst For Cures - Rachel Zajdel

CentennialX students eager to face the real world complications of rare diseases and clinical trials visited the PRA Health Sciences Headquarters to gain useful background on clinical trial research pertaining to rare disease and pediatrics. The PRA teams this summer in CentennialX are the Rare Disease teams from both William Tennent and Upper Dublin, and the Pediatric Research team. The teams were provided their own challenges to innovate and ideate to tackle their challenges against clinical trials. The Rare Disease teams are tasked to come up with a solution to forge better connections between patients, doctors, and researchers. The teams want to create something that will mend that gap and hopefully benefit the lives of those all around the world. The Pediatric Research Team is working on a solution in better educating pediatric patients about the assent process that takes place in a clinical trial. Most importantly, the team's desire to change the lives of those who are maligned by a complicated rare disease or a family that faces the burden of confusion. 

“We’re definitely looking forward to having the chance to make a difference.” - Jake Miller, Pediatric Research Team

    PRA Health Sciences, a partner of CentennialX, is a top five contract research organization, passionate about expediting drug discovery to provide communities around the world with life-changing medications, while also providing clinical research trials to patients in hopes of changing their lives and generations to come. 
    On July 5, 2017, the PRA Rare Disease teams and Pediatric Research team took to the real world and visited PRA Health Sciences for an informational meeting to get their inspiration flowing. The kids sat down with director Christina Fawcett of PRA and Mark Sorrentino, leader of the pediatric clinical research. Christina kicked off the meeting with a brief powerpoint highlighting the history of clinical trials, the phases involved, as well as the licenses and regulations that are required. 

“I thought it was eye-opening to see that a lot of people are misinformed about clinical trials, especially adults.” -Abby Christofas, WTHS Rare Disease Team

Afterwards, PRA member Mark Sorrentino presented a video addressing the problems that children face when participating in clinical trials, and more importantly, making sure the children understand what they will be facing. The film evoked feelings of passion and drive as you viewed the PRA Pediatric staff’s strong emotions when they spoke about their desire to provide children with the care they deserve. The children portrayed in the video were unaware and confused as the PRA members inquired about clinical trials and what they imagined would take place. This is the problem that Mark Sorrentino and his team face when attempting to simplify the consent process for children in order for them to understand the conditions and treatments given to them in a clinical trial. This process for pediatrics is called assent. The problem was then given to our CentennialX Pediatric team in hopes of them creating a better solution in explaining the assent process.

“We want to educate them from a different perspective.” -Catherine Foy, Pediatric Research Team

Following the video, the students were put on a call with Scott Schliebner who is involved in the scientific affairs at PRA Health Sciences including Rare Diseases. Addressing the group, he informed the students about the complicated process of diagnosing rare diseases due to not acquiring many cases across the country. He explained that most rare diseases are caused by genetics, so their team is working to study the human genome in hopes of discovering new diseases. For the centennialX Rare Disease teams, they hope to create a product that successfully connects patients to doctors, or doctors to researchers, to essentially make finding treatment options more accessible. 

Once the presentations were completed, questions were thrown all around the room, desperate for that reassuring answer. The immense thought and care the students had towards the clinical trials and the families involved was monumental. They were determined to grab every last detail to piece together their puzzle. Looking towards the future, it’s evident that these teams will create products that will change the world of science as we know it. 

The Journey Has Begun - Rachel Zajdel

The CentennialX MIT bike team has begun their creative endeavor in tackling cyclists problems at the Keswick Cycle shop in Glenside, Pennsylvania on June 16, 2017. Store owner Brian Hackford and Service Manager Chad Kachel were eager in helping the students tackle their CentennialX summer challenge.

 This summer, the MIT team started analyzing the various difficulties that all types of bikers can face. Further, they have been assigned the duty of designing a revolutionized product aimed towards fixing the problem. Together, the group will need to generate ideas and build a prototype to essentially help make the cycling experience better for all riders. At Keswick Cycle, Brian and Chad provided the team with knowledge and insight to help get the members rolling.

The team started off their visit with vigor, as they were toured around the shop by Brian and Chad, while receiving the low down on cycling and bike anatomy. From mountain to road to triathlon to fitness hybrid, the team discovered interesting facts on the cycling experience and were intrigued by the vast opportunities that cycling had to offer. More importantly, they learned about the problems that cyclists go through.

Chad and Brian discussed with the team the core necessities to an advantageous cycling experience: safety, apparel and accessories.  The shop included safety features like reflective outfits and helmets, apparel such as fluorescent jackets and accessories like portable water packs. The team ventured all throughout the shop to gain a stronger understanding of the current biking equipment so they can later brainstorm ideas hoping to adjust or create a beneficial product of their own.

The experience at Keswick Cycle was truly eye-opening for the MIT team and helped them gain valuable knowledge and resources that will influence their project and allow them to thrive. Personally, after witnessing the immense passion and drive these students have towards their challenge, I believe they are destined for greatness.

Anticpation for Creation - By Tayler Fane

A racing heartbeat. Shaky breaths. My thumb hovering over the refresh button, desperate to find a sense of relief in my inbox. Millions of thoughts rushing through my mind at a billion miles a minute, causing my trillions of cells to stand on edge. I eagerly opened the email and quickly skimmed my eyes over the correspondence. As soon as I saw the word “Congratulations!”, I quickly lifted my body from the chair and burst with movements, having little regard for tempo or rhythm. All of my hard work had finally paid off--I was really going to be a part of the CentennialX Summer 2017 Program.

    When I was first nominated, I didn’t know what CentennialX was. I went to an informational meeting to see what exactly the program had to offer, and I was a bit hesitant. They discussed the past years’ challenges, all of which had some scientific twist. Science has never really been my strong suit, so I was weary that I would not be able to keep up with the expectations. I filled out my (very long) application regardless, figuring it was a good opportunity. When I finally got called back for an interview, I got pretty excited. I remember waiting outside of the room, my heartbeat loud in my ears. I saw the person come out before me in a suit holding a briefcase and instantly got more nervous. Compared to my bright red pants and polka dot socks, he definitely seemed to have everything in order. 

Luckily, my interview went well despite my lack of formal apparel. Afterward, my friends and I chattered about the questions and the serious faces in the room. We were all anxious, wishing the best for ourselves and hopeful that we would work with each other in the summer. When we finally got the results, we were all thrilled to discover that we had all been chosen for the final challenge. We had no clue what the challenge would entail, but we were ecstatic to find out.
The challenge was indeed challenging, but it was fun to collaborate with other people who brought different ideas to the table. We had to create a product that helped fix our given problem and present it to the other groups. My group worked very well together, and we got our work done without being too stressed or low on time. The presentation was a little nerve wracking, but we did a good job regardless. This was the final step of the selection process, so after this, we had to wait until we found out if we were officially accepted or not. I was genuinely worried I wasn’t going to get in, as I really got a feel for the true competition during the challenge. I saw extremely intelligent, outgoing people who I was worried I couldn’t compare to. I didn’t know if I would make it in or not. All I did know is how bad I wanted to and how it would feel to make it this far and not be accepted. I was nervous, to say the least.

Although the process seemed to last a decade, it was definitely worth the wait. Seeing all of the determined, intelligent minds that will be working together this summer in one room sparks such a sense of inspiration within me. We all worked extremely hard to get to where we are, and we all have the same sense of determination to make this the best experience possible. Words cannot accurately describe how incredible it feels to be working with such amazing people, and I’m determined to make the most out of this opportunity. After all, we are the future.