Did Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking really walk 61 flights of stairs in one day?
“Yes I did!” she declared.
Thanks to a group of students at Meridian Technical Charter High School, not only are voting records of lawmakers open to public scrutiny, but so too are their physical activities.
Five high school juniors designed, developed and launched a website that tracks the daily fitness activities and eating and drinking habits of 49 of the 105 lawmakers who volunteered to participate in the Mt. Everest Challenge.
“It’s so wonderful they got kids involved in web development and fitness,” Ward-Engleking said. “I’m so impressed.”
Lawmakers log their progress and results are calculated into daily leaderboards.
Nathan Regner, Noah Shuart, Anthony Turner, Jonathan Stefani and Nicholas Wong designed and created the website in less than three months as part of a class project. It was the biggest project ever done by this team, especially considering the amount of visibility, sophistication and time involved.
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“Getting everything to work in all the browsers was the hardest part,” said Shuart.
Turner said: “It’s scary because codes and technology always fail when you need it most.”
The project has not been without glitches, but the students are getting a lesson in development, maintenance and customer service.
“I’ve learned so much,” Regner said. “It’s cool to think it’s being used by our leaders. It would be nice to know what they think of it.”
Rep. Wendy Horman says she looks at the site every night to see where she fits among the top five in the standings.
“I go three to five miles a day and I usually take the stairs,” Horman said. “The website is really cool.”
Ward-Engelking says the tracking process and comparing against other lawmakers has been a motivation to walk more: “It’s made me focus on counting and keeping track.”
The project was launched by the High Five Children’s Health Collaborative, which challenged legislators to get healthier while helping a local school. Three winning legislators who reach the summit of Mt. Everest at 29,035 feet will earn $5,000 for an Idaho elementary school of their choice to help purchase activity equipment. Legislators earn “feet climbed” for different fitness activities. They also get overall points for drinking water and eating fruits and vegetables. The High Five Children’s Health Collaborative is an initiative powered by the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation.
Along the way, legislators are receiving weekly information about the current status of children’s health, existing programs that are working to fight childhood obesity and features of cities that are providing healthy options for children in their communities.
The challenge concludes on Feb. 27. Winners will be announced on March 5.
Schools and community members can track their local legislator’s progress on the High Five Mt. Everest Challenge website.
“I’m hoping to get that money for Garfield Elementary,” Ward-Engelking said.
Moving in and out of the top five are Ward-Engelking, Horman, Rep. James Holtzclaw, Rep. Kelley Packer, Rep. Mat Erpelding and Sen. Steven Thayn.
“I look at the site every day in admiration and to look for bugs,” said Shuart.
Regner, Turner and Shuart said Meridian Technical Charter High School has helped them visualize a future in software or web development.
“There is nothing like a real project with real deliverables,” said teacher Beth Richtsmeier. “The work they did is impressive and required dedication. It was a learning process from project management to interfacing with your customers.”
Meridian Technical Charter High School is for students who are interested in learning skills that lead immediately to careers or build a strong foundation for post secondary education in the following pathways:
- Computer networking and PC repair
- Computer programming
- Electronics or pre-engineering
- Media and graphic arts
Each student receives over 1,000 hours of industry level technology training before graduating and is required to serve 280 hours as an intern in the business community.
“We train kids in marketable careers,” Beth said. “Graduates from here can get a job immediately.”