Samsung Hosts Future Technologists & Engineers in New York City in Final Days of ‘Solve for Tomorrow’ Contest
“Technology is a great tool, but if you’re not using it to help people, it’s just a toy,” said Isaac C., a middle school student and member of the Ashland, KY Samsung Solve for Tomorrow team, one of three national grand prize winners in this year’s Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. The annual contest asks students nationwide to use science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) skills to solve a challenge in their community.
Ashland Middle School’s winning project was elegantly simple in its genius. After getting a request from their local police officers for help, the team set out to protect community first responders on the front lines of the nation’s opioid epidemic by safeguarding them as they handle the hazardous waste of needles left behind by drug users.
“We live a few miles away from the overdose capital of the nation,” said Aubree H., another member of the Ashland Middle School team, as she pitched the team’s project to a panel of judges assembled for the contest’s final pitch event.
Isaac, Aubree and their teammates, guided by their teacher, Michael Polley, first designed their device using 3-D design software and then printed it using a 3-D printer. The process exposed the students to real-world experience with high-tech tools using STEAM skills, while the result became much more than just inventing a prototype device that first responders can now use to keep them safe. The project also inspired several of the students to consider the fields of engineering, science and technology for future career paths.
“I want to be an agricultural engineer so this competition has really got me engaged with the 3-D printers and the design software and it has I can take into the real world,” Aubree H. explained.
Cavallini Middle School in Upper Saddle River, NJ and Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Winston-Salem, NC presented equally compelling solutions to their community challenge, and each winning team took home a total grand prize of $150,000 in Samsung technology for their schools. The seven remaining finalist teams were also awarded $50,000 in Samsung technology earlier this year.
“Five in 10 concussions go undetected,” said Josh C., a member of the New Jersey team, while explaining the group’s project: A sensor that attaches inside a football helmet to measure the force of a hit on a player and through an app, also designed by the students, help coaches and parents evaluate the potential a player has sustained a concussion. “We see this not only saving kids,” but also giving parents peace of mind, Josh said.
Middle school students from North Carolina ascended the winner’s podium with a project aimed at mitigating the impact of flooding, an all-too-frequent occurrence in their area. “We made a gate that automatically shuts off roads whenever the water level reaches six inches, then opens back up” when the water recedes, said team member Richard L. He explained how just six inches of water can stall a car and produce currents that can make it difficult or even impossible to open the doors and escape.
With the Solve for Tomorrow contest, Samsung’s core mission is to get more students interested in science and technology but in the process, parents, teachers and the students themselves admit, the contest has helped students realize what they are capable of achieving for themselves and their communities.
“We have been working in partnership with schools to inspire students to think outside themselves, to take on project-based learning in the real world that they can bring back to the classroom,” said Ann Woo, senior director of Corporate Citizenship at Samsung Electronics America.
Prior to the pitch and reveal events, all 10 national finalist teams had spent months brainstorming and identifying project ideas, then planning, designing, building and testing their prototypes. They consulted with community members along the way, integrating their feedback into the final entries
On the sidelines of the pitch event, held at Samsung 837, the company’s technology playground and marketing center of excellence, students cheered Samsung for providing them the opportunity to “solve for tomorrow.”
“I’m really focused on saving lives and improving the lives of others,” said Danielle R., from Santiago High School in Corona, CA. “I originally wanted to study biology and I didn’t really think about engineering until now. I’m just so glad that Samsung brought to light what I want to do.”
When she matriculates at the University of California Riverside later this year, Danielle will become the first person in her family to attend college.
“There aren’t a lot of Latinas in engineering,” she said. “I bring a different perspective to the table.”
Ashton C., a student coder on the team from Kent Career Tech Center in Grand Rapids, MI, said the contest gave her a “priceless experience” that will translate into college credit when she starts at the Savannah College of Art and Design later this year.
“So it’s pushing into my own future as much as I want to push people with autism into theirs,” Ashton said of her team’s project, which uses virtual reality technology to present two- and three-dimensional role-playing experiences that help students across the autism spectrum navigate social situations before they encounter them.
Following the pitch event, the 29 students and 11 teachers representing their teams spent a day focused on STEAM in the city, which included visiting the American Museum of Natural History’s “Unseen Oceans” exhibit and being mentored by the professional technologists and engineers of SamsungNEXT. The final winners’ announcement was made live on ABC’s Good Morning America, where the entire group was recognized for their efforts.
“In the eight years we’ve carried out the contest we’ve seen students and teachers drive change through their tenacity, their creativity and their curiosity,” said Woo. “As the world’s largest technology company, it’s exhilarating that we, as a company, can facilitate this learning not only through the challenge the contest provides but also by providing schools with the technology they need to help young minds pursue a career in STEAM.
The national winners this year are testament to the possibility and promise of the next generation to answer some of today’s real issues. We are proud to bring awareness to their inspiring work.”