Mentoring Young Scientists as they ‘Solve for Tomorrow’
- Every year Samsung employees volunteer to mentor a student team of aspiring innovators as part of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow national STEM contest.
- This year, Samsung’s Yolanda Vicente is one of the 75 employee mentors to two state-winning teams from New Jersey as they compete to be national finalists.
- The high school teams are using STEM skills and engaging with experts in their communities to tackle issues such as lead detection in the water supply and food-based solutions to antibiotic resistance.
Yolanda Vicente was happy to talk about the extraordinary young scientists she’s mentoring in the 2020 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM contest, which challenges public school 6th to 12th graders to solve a pressing problem in their community using science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“Their ideas are brilliant,” declared Vicente, a Sr. Manager of Business Development for the Mobile Business at Samsung Electronics America. She’s the Samsung employee mentor to two New Jersey state-winning teams: Belleville High School and Bergenfield High School which have already won $15,000 in Samsung technology and supplies for their schools as a result of their efforts. “I love working with the younger generations and sharing how technology can affect our lives for the better,” she said.
Belleville’s students brainstormed ideas on how they could assist their community for the detection and geolocation of lead levels in water. After speaking with the mayor and several experts, the students came up with a plan that would allow for a smartphone to be turned into a dark field microscope. This detection system will be used to quantify lead levels in water and allow residents to make informed water usage decisions.
Team Bergenfield’s research into reversing antibiotic resistance to bacterial illnesses like pneumonia aims to raise awareness of the potential benefit of putting natural resistance back into the human body with foods like olive oil and chlorophyll supplements. A presentation by the Bergenfield Solve team of two and the local Board of Health helped get the word out of the students’ research and learnings and secured them an invite to a future community health fair in an effort to increase awareness of the learnings within the community.
As part of the STEM competition, both teams and 100 state winners across the nation have turned their STEM projects into prototypes with an accompanying video submission in a bid to be named a National Finalist and a shot at one of five grand prizes — $100,000 in Samsung technology and supplies for their schools.
“I think what Samsung is doing is amazing, considering the future of STEM and STEM-based careers and there’s such a shortage of scientists,” said Anu Thadani, STEM teacher at Bergenfield High School who is guiding the students through the competition. “I think competitions like will entice more students to go into these fields. It’s what our country gravely needs.”
Vicente is supporting the teams with weekly video chats, asking them each time, “How can I help you?” She is guiding their brainstorming process to help focus each project as well as helping the students get the most out of meetings with community members and experts, and ensuring all team members have a voice in the process.
“I hope my mentor role can help them establish a closer relationship with Samsung,” said Vicente, unknowingly calling to mind the company’s desired effect of the decade-old competition conducted by Samsung in the U.S. and now held in 30 countries around the world.
“Samsung Solve for Tomorrow began out of a desire to enable younger generations through education and inspire students to learn much-needed STEM skills through problem-based learning in order to build the technology workforce of the future,” explained Ann Woo, Sr. Director of Corporate Citizenship for Samsung Electronics America.
Which is why Vicente and her colleagues are a critical part of the contest’s activities. Vicente loves working to build technology for good and is very familiar with tech applications aimed at assisting the user. She worked at Samsung Spain on a groundbreaking app that detects dyslexia in younger students and, as an MBA Candidate, on a geolocation app that helps people with moderate Alzheimer’s disease to live more independently and safely.
“I see science and technology as a good way to understand the world, and that’s a good starting point for solving problems,” said Vicente, whose expertise is in creating value for users through apps deployed in connected devices. She has a Master of Science in Telecommunication Engineering, and a Master of Business Administration degree.
“These kids are following the same innovation method that we use in the real world – identify the need, brainstorm solutions, research, test, fail, learn – all while creating a huge impact in their community,” Vicente said. “I’m proud to work for a company that is investing time and resources into student innovation.”
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition, for which Samsung has doubled the number of schools awarded in each phase of the contest as well as increased the overall prize pool to $3 million.* National Finalist teams will be announced on March 5th, 2020 and will compete for one of five grand prizes and a community choice award by pitching their projects to a panel of judges on April 1st in New York City.
*$3 million prize is based on an estimated retail value.