05.10.21 / Communities (COVID-19)

Innovation, Iteration & Inclusion: Tenets for Samsung Solve for Tomorrow’s Success

Talking Points

  • Ann Woo, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship, recently led a session at a Corporate Citizenship Conference on how Samsung is working to foster inclusivity in STEM education through Samsung Solve for Tomorrow.
  • She shared key lessons learned from the program’s eleven-year journey, including how it was reimagined during COVID-19 and the ways its helping students in underserved and rural communities become seeds of change.
  • “Solve for Tomorrow gives students opportunities to make the connection between what they’re studying and its relevant application. By doing that, the students forge a STEM identity, and become successful contributors."

Ann Woo, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship at Samsung Electronics America, recently led a session at the virtual 2021 International Corporate Citizenship Conference on how Samsung is working to foster inclusivity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education through our Samsung Solve for Tomorrow program. The annual event, hosted by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, connects leading corporate social responsibility professionals and experts from around the world for three days of insights, information, and sharing.

Samsung Solve for Tomorrow is a national 6th-12th grade public school classroom competition that’s fueling the imagination of young minds to develop bold, empathetic solutions for pressing community challenges. Ann shared key lessons learned from the STEM-based citizenship program’s eleven-year journey, how the Solve for Tomorrow experience was reimagined during COVID-19, and the ways in which the program is helping students in underserved and rural communities become seeds of change.

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Among the notable takeaways was to embrace innovation and iteration. “At Samsung, change is a constant and part of our DNA. That same spirit drives our Citizenship team to look at new ways to evolve Solve for Tomorrow,” said Ann. Over the years, Samsung has expanded the focus of the competition to include solving broader societal issues like mental health, social justice and climate change; established the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Teacher Academy to provide professional development opportunities for educators; and incorporated the concept of “STEMpathy” into Solve for Tomorrow and the Teacher Academy.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March, we were nearing the end of our 2019-2020 competition – which marked Solve for Tomorrow’s 10th anniversary. What was supposed to be a celebration quickly became a challenging time during which we had to challenge ourselves to pivot and push forward. The program was transformed into a virtual experience, allowing teachers and students who had been working tirelessly on their concepts for months to present their visionary STEM-based prototypes. And one year later, a lot of those innovation and iteration shifts are still in place for the current 2020-2021 competition,” continued Ann.

To impart lessons on the imperative for co-creation and inclusivity, Ann was joined by Charles Best, Founder and CEO of DonorsChoose; M. Letitia Hubbard, PhD, Instructor of Engineering and Mentorship at North Carolina School of Science and Math; and Justin Reinmuth, STEM and Engineering Teacher at Gering High School.

Samsung regards co-creation with corporate citizenship partners as mutually beneficial relationships. “There are tremendous STEM resources needed to bring our classroom dreams to life. Together with Solve for Tomorrow, we’re empowering teachers and students to tap their own front-line expertise and identify what they need most to learn — and that includes learning during the pandemic. For our Keep Kids Learning initiative, Samsung stepped up in such a generous way to provide students in communities with essential material for remote learning at home. These communities were overwhelming in low income and rural areas — and that equity-driven alignment between DonorsChoose and Solve for Tomorrow has made this such an incredible partnership,” noted DonorsChoose’ Charles Best.

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While metrics are important for gauging the return on investment of a corporate citizenship program, there are many immeasurable results like the impact that Samsung’s initiative has on young middle and high school students, teachers, schools, and communities. Justin Reinmuth, from Samsung Solve for Tomorrow’s winningest school in the country, added, “The program’s ability to excite and empower rural school students through hands-on, problem-based learning that promotes STEM thinking is invaluable. For example, winning the competition in 2018 helped pique student interest beyond the one electronics course we were offering at the time. It gave me some autonomy within the school district to introduce more engineering, robotics, ethical hacking, and programming classes. Samsung’s support has been paramount in providing the resources to push forward STEM education in our high school and elevating the prospects for our students.”

Dr. Letitia Hubbard, a 2019-2020 first-time Solve for Tomorrow competitor and National Grand Prize Winner, stated, “Diversity and inclusion are key to innovation — and fostering engineering skills is  critical for our future generation. Representation matters and I want to ensure that our students can see people who look like them in the classroom and learn how engineering can impact their community and the world. The Solve for Tomorrow competition makes problem-based learning real and gives students opportunities to make the connection between what they’re studying and its relevant application. By doing that, the students forge a STEM identity, and they realize they can become successful 21st century contributors and make a difference.”

To learn more about Samsung Solve for Tomorrow, please visit: https://www.samsung.com/us/solvefortomorrow/.

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