09.11.19 / Education

Samsung Solve for Tomorrow: Preparing Today’s Young Minds for the STEM Jobs of Tomorrow

By Ann Woo, Senior Director, Corporate Citizenship, Samsung Electronics America
Students from the 10 national finalist schools in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest celebrate while in Washington, DC on Wednesday, April 26.
Students from the 10 national finalist schools in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest celebrate while in Washington, DC on Wednesday, April 26.

Samsung Electronics’ pathway to success is a result of pioneering innovation and defying the impossible through the advancement of technology for 50 years. From the beginning, the company identified the integral role that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) plays in our daily lives – not just as the creator of products – from semiconductors to smartphones – and services – like 5G and connected IoT, but also as an employer and a corporate citizen. Samsung also recognized that it wanted to take an active and meaningful role in boosting interest and proficiency in STEM to fuel the creation of a skilled workforce and to create innovative thinkers and makers that are actively engaged in the direction of the modern world.

In the U.S., there is a supply and demand mismatch when it comes to STEM fields. Employment in STEM occupations grew much faster than non-STEM over the last decade (24.4 percent versus 4.0 percent), and STEM occupations are projected to grow by 8.9 percent from 2014 to 2024, compared to 6.4 percent growth for non-STEM occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s “STEM Jobs: 2017 Update.”

To directly address this issue, Samsung Electronics America is bridging gaps and readying a workforce by making STEM education a prominent part of its corporate agenda via its Solve for Tomorrow (SFT) program. The nationwide competition that challenges public school students in grades 6-12 to showcase how STEM can be applied to help improve their community is now entering its tenth year and is effectively creating a viable talent pipeline to fill the growing STEM workforce needs.

From L to R: Harshil P. and Lauren S., former students at Santiago High School in California, show off their “Project Phoenix” app and prototype for protecting structures from wildfires, which was developed with guidance from their teacher, Doloumar Bergen, during the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow 2017-18 contest year. SDC 2018
From L to R: Harshil P. and Lauren S., former students at Santiago High School in California, show off their “Project Phoenix” app and prototype for protecting structures from wildfires, which was developed with guidance from their teacher, Doloumar Bergen, during the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow 2017-18 contest year.

STEM is Fundamental

Taking a wider lens, STEM is important because it pervades every part of our lives. We exercise our STEM muscles when managing our finances and we experience STEM when streaming a TV series with breathtaking special effects. Emerging technologies, like 5G, AI, IoT and robotics, are changing the way we live, work, play and engage with one another. Moreover, scientific and technological advances increasingly dominate the national and global discourse, from environmental debates on the climate crisis and the need to update aging infrastructure to developing sustainable strategies for the food industry and researching cures for cancer.

Having the STEM literacy to understand the discourse surrounding these tech-driven changes and national and global issues is now as fundamentally important as learning to read and write. That’s why it’s imperative that our education system reflect these evolving needs. By incorporating STEM into the curriculum, we can ensure that we’re paving the way for a brighter future.

A team from Ashland Middle School in Ashland, Ky. was recognized live on Good Morning America as one of the grand prize winners of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest
A team from Ashland Middle School in Ashland, Ky. was recognized live on Good Morning America as one of the grand prize winners of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest

Beyond the Skills Gap

The U.S. Department of Education cites that at least 20 percent of U.S. jobs require a high level of knowledge in any one STEM field. But even outside of the traditional STEM job sector, there is a need for STEM competencies and skills. Data shows that the set of core cognitive knowledge, skills, and abilities that are associated with a STEM education are in demand in nearly all job sectors and occupations.

STEM skills are key to a 21st century workforce and taking approaches to close the gap through education is vital. But “skills” is not the only gap that exists. It’s time for a tectonic shift in expanding STEM learning and workforce opportunities to all, therefore closing the gender, racial and socioeconomic gaps as well.

Deep Creek Middle School in Chesapeake, Virginia was named a 2019 national winner in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest at a ceremony on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City. Teacher Paula Labbe and students Olivia Lyons, Hunter Johnston and Tia Davis received the award from Samsung’s Dr. David Steel, EVP and Head of Corporate Affairs and Ann Woo, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship. The students won for creating a website and app for high-need students with poor vision to access free prescription glasses.
Deep Creek Middle School in Chesapeake, Virginia was named a 2019 national winner in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest at a ceremony on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City. Teacher Paula Labbe and students Olivia Lyons, Hunter Johnston and Tia Davis received the award from Samsung’s Dr. David Steel, EVP and Head of Corporate Affairs and Ann Woo, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship. The students won for creating a website and app for high-need students with poor vision to access free prescription glasses.

The “Solve for Tomorrow” Journey

SFT is a multi-dimensional, problem-based learning initiative that fosters critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills, while promoting the positive impact young minds can have locally and beyond. Every year, students dive into the competition with their teachers to unearth and solve salient societal issues. What’s compelling is that as critical issues affecting society evolve, so too has the SFT program. In recent years, SFT students have used STEM to tackle emerging challenges of a new decade. For instance, they’ve taken on such complex issues as:

  • School Safety: Owensville High School students in Owensville, Mo. designed a secure door lock to help keep students and teachers safe in the event an armed intruder were to gain access to the building.
  • The Opioid Epidemic: Because local Ashland, KY first responders called to the scene of a drug overdose are only armed with rubber gloves and tongs, Ashland Middle School students created a device to safely pick up and dispose of hypodermic needles.
  • Concussion Detection in Sports: After a classmate suffered a concussion during football season, students at Cavallini Middle School in Upper Saddle River, N.J. developed sensors for football helmets to identify potential concussions and help prevent any further brain injury through early detection.

And since teachers from all over the U.S. are leveraging SFT to raise students’ interest in STEM subjects and helping them harness STEM as a catalyst for change, Samsung has broadened its effective SFT STEMEd initiative to focus on the teachers themselves. Dubbed Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Teacher Academy, Samsung launched its inaugural week-long program earlier this summer, offering teachers a unique professional development experience designed to build and sustain a culture of STEM teaching and learning.

Each year, the competition inspires confidence in a new generation of students, priming their minds for jobs in a rapidly changing world, and providing them with the tools they need to pursue a career in STEM. And with each year, the Samsung SFT team members are more and more impressed by the imaginative and astute talents of all the participating students and teachers.

The Next Decade

Samsung’s commitment to building a future STEM workforce, bridging STEM and social impact and empowering youth has set the foundation for a truly successful SFT program. Since its inception in 2010, Samsung has provided more than $15 million in Samsung technology and school supplies to more than 2,200 public schools across the 50 United States. Over the past nine years, the company has received more than 20,000 entries for the competition, inspiring students to problem-solve and create.

Samsung is deeply humbled by and appreciative of the decade-long journey with educators, students, and communities that has grown into a robust network of STEM enthusiasts and change makers. As we embark on the next decade, we want to continue to build an enduring legacy and championing a more innovative and inclusive approach to STEM learning to collectively build a more capable future workforce.

The 10th year of the SFT competition is, just like the school year, back in session! Visit http://www.samsung.com/us/solvefortomorrow to start an application.

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