If Hill Leavitt has his way, solar powered cellphone charging stations will be a mainstay in the Shoals.
Festival goers would have a place to charge a cellphone at the event, and nature-goers would have the same access if they were spending a day at Cypress Creek or at Florence’s McFarland Park on the Tennessee River.
The Hibbett Middle School fifth-grader presented his idea for making the Shoals more mobile friendly at the Big Idea competition Wednesday night and was named winner of the middle school and high school category. The competition took place on the University of North Alabama campus.
Leavitt proposed placing self-charging stations at events and in strategic locations in the Shoals so mobile users would never be left with a dead battery. He said people at events would be free to take pictures and videos, and share those with friends, drawing attention to the Shoals.
He was one of three winners at the competition that was developed to start a dialogue about how to make the Shoals a place for technological innovation.
Leavitt’s idea would work hand in hand with the idea Mark and Carol Pyle presented to create a tourism app that would give users access to information about Shoals landmarks. The Pyles proposed the idea as a way to create a music tourism trail but said businesses such as shops and restaurants also could benefit by using an interactive map to pinpoint tourist attractions, merchandisers and restaurants.
Kirby Best, CEO of Performance Scrubs, a new production company in the Shoals that makes medical scrubs and pajamas, said the Shoals is a “magical area” for innovation and creativity, and included the ideas he heard Wednesday night in that compliment.
“These are some creative ideas coming out of this area that are second to none,” he said.
Jason Summer’s idea of making the Shoals a research hub for electric cars won the college category. His idea called for the area to combine its land, utility and education resources to create an atmosphere conducive for electric car research. He said that is an area primed to expand because of the demands for cleaner transportation.
Summer said every major car manufacturer is involved in electric car design and research, and said UNA could create a research center while Northwest-Shoals Community College could create job skill training programs to feed the industry.
The competition came out of a work session in October that challenged business and community leaders to develop ideas to make the Shoals a hot spot for digital innovation. UNA marketing and management professor, Santanu Borah, said the competition is meant to encourage creative thinking and problem solving and to move local idea developers from the why mindset to the why not way of thinking.
Florence Freshman Center Principal Rod Shepard said creative and innovative thinking should be encouraged because success can be tied to progressiveness. He said today’s students will have “jobs that may not even exist right now because the technology has not been invented yet.”