In April 2019, Owensville High School was one of three teams that won $100,000 in Samsung technology and supplies for their school for inventing a STEM solution for a community problem as part of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. When the technology was finally delivered to the school and set up, teacher Kevin Lay shared a few fun videos showing just how much the tech prize has impacted Owensville classrooms since school has been back in session.

Q: After your team’s 2019 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow win of $100,000 in technology and supplies for your school, how did you determine the greatest need for the school or school district and then choose what to purchase?

Lay: Part of the determination of where our Samsung Prize package of $100,000 in technology and supplies would go, was about exploring the needs of our STEM students and preparing them to be college and career ready.  We also asked other teachers in other subjects and grade levels for some ideas on how they could implement STEM technology in their classrooms.  This led us to many different paths – and what we have called a “Share the Love” approach.  So when you visit the Owensville, MO school district, it’s easy to see that our Samsung technology reaches so many students and teachers in so many grade levels and subjects.  While a good amount of focus was on outfitting a High School STEM classroom with the technology, a lot of the technology and supplies were needed and utilized in many areas and classrooms to make an impact everywhere in our district.

Q: How have classrooms or curriculums changed as a result of having more technology available to Owensville staff and students?

Lay: The impact in classrooms, clubs, activities and extracurricular activities has been incredible! The students in our social studies/history classes now get virtual tours of the places and experiences that they teach in their classes through Samsung Gear VR and HMD Odyssey+ – Windows Mixed Reality Headsets. The Business/Marketing department get to prototype and concept ideas and designs on a new Samsung FlipBoard and collaboratively work using new Samsung Chromebook Pluses. Elementary and Middle school students (3rd – 8th grades) even have the opportunity to create 3D designs using their Samsung Chromebooks, share, present and modify their designs on a Samsung Flip, and then create an actual prototype using the new 3D printers. They even record the entire journey using the camera on the Chromebook Plus!

For the high school, the change in our classroom has transformed our approach to education.  The environment has completely changed.  Our classroom furniture (also purchased with some of the prize money) not only is more comfortable but promotes collaborative learning to a higher level!  When you walk into the class, you immediately get a great balance of coffee shop style yet efficient workspace that allows the students to be free to collaborate with their ideas and work as a team.  Each student studies, and records their progress on a Samsung Chromebook Plus.  This is a big deal because students now have the technology to solve problems in a variety of ways — not worksheets or paper packets.  Students can seamlessly integrate their Samsung technology from the Chromebooks, to the Samsung tablets they use, to the Galaxy S10 phones they use to record videos or take pictures for analysis of their labs or to create documentaries or video reports of their solutions to the problems they are facing. That’s a lot! But that’s not all.

As a teacher, I’ve eliminated the “front” and “back” of the room, and a teacher’s desk.  The workspace changes every day, and the classroom is centered around a display that we’ve affectionately named the “Samsung Edu-Tron.”  Think “Jumbo-Tron” but for a classroom.  It is four 58″ UHD TV’s that are centered and mounted on the ceiling.

The classroom space is now able to be utilized from wall to wall, and the middle of the room is functional and usable for presentations that either the teacher can give, or the students give.  The students can connect to the Edu-Tron, to give their presentations to the entire class using all four screens, or each part of the room (four) can practice their pitch or presentation by individually connecting to a screen for four different presentation practices at the same time.  This changes everything in the class!

We have really focused on problem-based learning principles and communication in our classroom.  This is preparing our students for so many facets in their future lives, including anyone on a college or career-ready path!  In our STEM classes, the addition of our Samsung tablets and Chromebook Pluses have allowed students to record their data by typing AND video recording!  Students now will turn in project videos that have been edited, and present their ideas and solutions to problems that they are being challenged with, in class. The addition of the Samsung Gear VR headsets has allowed our drone usage to utilize the first-person approach, while simultaneously connecting to a Samsung tablet or Samsung laptop for others to view/record or observe at the same time!

Q: What was the most fun part for you and your students of being able to provide so much updated technology for the benefit of teachers and students?

Lay: There were many fun parts that we had when the updated technology was arriving.  Here are some of them:

  • When the students walked into a transformed classroom and understood the expectations that were set, they have risen to the challenge, and meet each one anticipating something new and exciting is about to happen.  That’s a pretty incredible feeling as a teacher, and one that’s so much fun to come to school every day – just waiting for it!
  • One of the best parts is the giving!  In our rural school and community, technology is not handed out too often, especially in large amounts like this.  So when we received the technology and was able to give it to the teachers to utilize in their classrooms, their reactions and gratitude were so welcoming and filled our hearts with joy!
  • Sharing the technology with the younger students and seeing their faces light up with joy, excitement, and anticipation!  When you’re a student or a teacher, leaving a legacy is one of the best things that you can do.  But when you are able to make a child excited about the future of their education – by showing them what they can look forward to, that’s a feeling that nothing else can match.

Q: How has Owensville High School and/or the community itself changed since your team’s Samsung Solve for Tomorrow win?

Lay: The realization that we are winners!  Our students that led our Samsung Solve for Tomorrow winning project to a National Championship have carved out a pathway that so many students now want to follow — ultimately they have created their own legacy.  Students in every grade level know that it’s possible that they can change the world with a solution to a problem that our community faces.  They know that a small rural school and a student from a city that almost no one has heard of can make a difference!  This has created a support system from our community that is incredibly amazing and caring about what exactly IS going on at Owensville High School.

Students want to be a part of something special and something that can change our community for the better.  It has helped us realize that students want to be agents of change for the betterment of our community, city, state, country, and world!

Our STEM classes have grown in size and our STEM II Class has doubled in size since our National Championship!  We already have a plan of a new extracurricular club being formed – the STEM club.  This club will utilize the thoughts and ideas of our STEM class and be an outlet for research and ideas that can create a solution to problems our community and surrounding areas face.

This opportunity and recognition have given our students a level of confidence that nothing has ever done for us before!  They expect to be challenged and embrace it now more than they have in the past.  The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow win has created an expectation in our classes that we have the ability to solve problems and we can do it at a high level, beyond the walls of our school!

Q: Would you encourage other teachers and students to participate in the contest and why?

Lay: I would do anything I can to encourage, promote and show everyone that the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest is worth every ounce of energy that you put into it.  Why?  The contest promotes your students and their passions like nothing else I’ve ever seen, do.  It gives them opportunity to really shine and to see the STEM process be validated on the highest level.  It’s one thing when a teacher tells a student that they can change the community around them. Samsung takes that idea that your students have, and gives them a platform to really show the world just how great our future leaders are.  As a teacher, there’s no better feeling than to see your students become empowered by a caring company like Samsung, and to see their confidence level exceed your expectations.

Students everywhere deserve the opportunity to show the world just how great they are, and that they are ready to solve problems that we face now, and tomorrow. Just remember, when you give them an opportunity like this, get out of the way and watch them thrive!

Public School teachers of grades 6 through 12 can apply to Samsung Solve for Tomorrow here