Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM Contest’s 10th Year Launches from Capitol Hill
- Samsung Electronics America kicked off its 10th Anniversary contest year for Solve for Tomorrow, challenging public school 6th to 12th graders and teachers to improve their community using STEM.
- U.S. House and Senate members, a top White House official and past contest winners and teachers gathered to discuss the importance of STEM education in the U.S. for building a more capable future workforce.
- Through the contest, since 2010, Samsung has provided $15 million in technology and school supplies to more than 2,200 schools across all 50 states.
Student scientists joined U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill to kick off the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest’s 10th year, calling on 6th to 12th graders in public schools to solve a pressing problem in their community using science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Celebrating a decade of student-led progress in STEM, past contest winners, future contestants and their inspiring teachers mingled with members of the U.S. House and Senate from both parties, as well as the top White House official for technology, Michael Kratsios, at Samsung Electronics America’s Washington D.C. headquarters.
With a view of the U.S. Capitol’s dome, it was a fitting setting to launch the Solve for Tomorrow challenge to young engineers-in-training.
“If you’re looking for a way to engage with your community to make a real difference on issues like school safety, human health and climate change, this is a program that jumpstarts that engagement,” said Saad Amer, a Solve for Tomorrow 2011 national winner who is now an environmental scientist, activist and lobbyist and an advisor to the United Nations on global environmental justice.
“Working with Solve helped prepare me for the issues we’re seeing today on a national and global scale,” Amer continued.
Speaking on the sidelines of the kickoff event, Amer said the program’s interdisciplinary, problem-based learning approach offers unique opportunities for students to shine. “It validates their creativity and ideas and cultivates their ability to present well-designed, well-researched solutions from the ground up.”
Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE), who serves on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said Samsung’s STEM contest provides the crucial spark that can lead to a meaningful career.
“If you can capture a child’s attention in any STEM field, there’s a greater chance that they’ll continue that interest throughout their lives,” Fischer said, speaking during a panel at the launch event.
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who in her previous career designed mainframe database systems, told the panel that her tech training prepared her for policy-making.
“I use my STEM background each and every day,” Rosen said. “As an engineer, you have to look at a system in its entirety.” Legislating requires the same thing, Rosen added.
Rosen and Fischer are sponsors of the bi-partisan Building Blocks of STEM Act, proposed STEM education legislation that would create National Science Foundation research grants to grow girls’ participation in computer science.
The contest “opened up a lot of opportunities” for student Kiana W., a 2018-2019 Solve for Tomorrow national finalist from Richland Two Institute of Innovation, in Columbia, South Carolina. “Actually seeing where it can get you – seeing so many people involved in STEM – helps drive home the importance of STEM.” Kiana was joined at the launch by her science teacher, Kirstin Bullington.
Participation in the contest has a significant multiplier effect, according to Harry Preston, a 7th and 8th grade science teacher at James McHenry Elementary/Middle School, in Baltimore, MD, a state winner in the 2018-2019 contest year.
“These students become a beacon for other kids, showing them what’s possible,” Preston said. His professional passion is getting youth of color involved in STEM, which he accomplishes as a teacher and as a leader of after-school and summer-camp STEM programming for kids in his school’s inner-city neighborhood.
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), also a panelist, said scientific, problem-based learning gives students tools to evolve with and understand the fast-changing world around them.
“For us to be the masters of technology, and not the servants to it, we need STEM to be at the center of education, and we need wide access [to it] such that every child, regardless of background, can live prosperous lives in our digital age,” Norman said.
Norman and his colleagues, who also included Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), spoke enthusiastically about boosting gender and racial diversity in STEM learning and careers, while the keynote speaker, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios, said the White House shares those goals and concerns.
Speaking of the “importance of building a strong foundation of STEM literacy,” Kratsios said the White House is prioritizing diversity in STEM as well as apprenticeships and other training programs to equip the future workforce with the tech skills necessary for jobs “on the factory floor and in the halls of Congress.”