Refined recycling initiatives, specialized state park education videos and adolescent social programs were at the forefront of the Missouri “Show Me Challenge” on Friday morning.

Nine teams from various state government departments competed through pitch presentations about how to improve specific processes and programs within their department. Styled similarly to the TV show “Shark Tank,” the event was centered upon utilizing friendly competition to spur innovation and problem solving.

The “Champions for Older Youth” team from the Department of Social Services won first place for its plan to expand the Southeast Royals Unit, which invests in the development of children across the state. The presentation featured photos of program participants along with stories about how the Royals Unit has impacted lives.

Members of the winning team included Rene Brinkman, Shasta Miller, Bobbie Thomas and Nicole Robinson. According to the ”Show Me Challenge” website, first place winners will receive $500 per team member along with “senior support and mentorship to translate their proposals into results.”

The “Recycle Rally in Parks” team from the Department of Natural Resources and Office of Administration took second place, after it suggested ways to improve the convenience of recycling for campers. The team emphasized that most people want to recycle, so the department needed to remove any potential roadblocks.

The team’s model, which had been tested at one campground already, showed approximately a 13% return on investment, meaning the profit of implementing the new recycling procedures outweighed the costs. Eventually it hopes to spread the program to campgrounds across the state and even apply similar processes to other organizations.

When competitor Lori Cody was asked by one of the competition judges about feedback from campers at the pilot camp, Cody said “All we’re getting is praise. Very rarely do we have a single customer that doesn’t want to participate, so it’s going very well.”

The “MO State Parks Education Resources Website” team from the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education took third place for its proposal about a centralized on-demand video platform for educators and students to access state park learning curriculum.

The project is partly a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, after the number of state park school group on-site participants dropped approximately 96%, from 79,000 in 2015 to 3,500 in 2020. The departments produced and posted videos on social media from mid-March to October to continue educating the public.

The online platform would include:

On-demand videos to be accessed anytime with correlating worksheets and other materials.

  • Virtual field trips for students to visit parks through live online meetings.
  • Learning resources for independent study projects.

Other presentations focused on improving virtual communications, such as enhancing access to information about drinking water, creating a database for information about maintenance pieces for state parks and streamlining requests for company secondments.

After being delayed because of COVID-19, Friday’s event completes the fourth cycle of the “Show Me Challenge,” which was held virtually for the first time. The next cycle of the program will begin again in February.

The winning team from the previous cycle proposed an apprenticeship program to find young talent skilled in desired technical fields.

  • Fall 2020 State Government reporter. Studying magazine journalism and statistics. Reach me at, or in the newsroom at 573-882-5700.

  • Molly Hart is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. She has previously reported on state government. She can be reached at

Recommended for you