Alumni Tia Davis: Solve for Tomorrow Showed Me There’s No Limit to What We Can Accomplish
For this year’s ‘Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Alumni: Where Are They Now?’ series, we’re catching up with students who have competed in our national STEM competition to discover more about life after Solve. We’re learning how Solve for Tomorrow impacted the students and the trajectory of their higher education and career path, as well as the overall importance of STEM education.
|Today:||I’m taking a “gap year” between my STEM-focused High School studies and then attending Tidewater Community College, where I’ll pursue an Associate’s Degree in forensic science.|
|Plans for Tomorrow:||“My dream is to be a forensic criminologist. It’s not just that I was a fan of Criminal Minds and CSI Miami – I love investigating things and finding solutions.|
|Ties to Samsung Solve for Tomorrow:||At Deep Creek Middle School, several of our classmates were doing poorly in class because they couldn’t clearly see what the teacher was writing on the board. Their families couldn’t afford doctors’ visits and buying eyeglasses. Several of us thought we should – and could – do something to fix that. We applied our STEM skills to create a solution – “Sight for Tomorrow” -- an app to match donated eyeglasses with an individual’s vision needs. From that simple motivation to help friends in need, we went on to be a Solve for Tomorrow National Winner in the 2018-2019 competition.|
What was your path from Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM competition winner to where you are today?
“Solve for Tomorrow really showed me that if we put our minds to it, we could accomplish something important for our fellow students.”
“Participating in the competition opened my eyes to having opportunities that I could take advantage of. It motivated me to go to the Science and Medicine Academy at Deep Creek High School. An interest I had in forensics – in part from watching the television series Criminal Minds and CSI Miami – really blossomed in High School. I was able to take a forensics class, and I fell in love with it. I liked the idea of analysis, of getting down into the details, and then using the details to figure out the unknown.”
“I intend to continue my forensic studies at Tidewater Community College, after the gap-year I’m now enjoying. Ultimately, I’d like to work in forensic criminology – and maybe get an advanced degree from a four-year university.”
What was the origin of the “Sight for Tomorrow” eyeglasses project?
“It was really all about a simple idea – helping kids who needed eyeglasses get a pair that worked for them so they could improve their grades. Looking back, it was remarkable what we were able to do.”
Deep Creek Middle School’s winning entry for 2018-2019, ”Sight for Tomorrow,” was elegant in its simplicity. The students created a mobile app that enabled users in need of glasses to search the inventory of donated glasses collected by local service organization, Lions International. Tia was one of the team members who created QR codes that recorded the specifics of each available pair of glasses, while a web coding group wrote the program that used the QR codes to match pairs of glasses with individual eyewear prescriptions. The class also sought advice and input from area eyecare specialists at Genesis Eyecare, who provided free eye exams for Sight for Tomorrow users.
As Tia describes it, the idea behind the app was straightforward: “We knew some of our classmates were trying to get seats at the front of the class, because they couldn’t clearly see the board. Their grades were suffering because of that, but they were reluctant to admit their vision challenges – embarrassed that their families couldn’t afford the expense of eye exams and glasses.”
Deep Creek Middle School in fact serves a largely under-resourced community – 60% of its students qualify for free breakfast and lunch. Health care and eye care was a financial burden for many of those families.
The Sight for Tomorrow eyeglasses project was yet another example of the tremendous empathy that Solve for Tomorrow has shown America’s middle school students have for their classmates and communities – and the innovative STEM-based solutions that they create to address community issues. In year 13 of Solve for Tomorrow alone, three middle schools ranked as National Finalists – Brooklyn’s Liberty Avenue Middle School for its SubSave app – an alert system that New York subway riders could use to report either safety or mental health incidents; Richmond Hill Middle School in Georgia, whose students developed a mobile app that PTSD victims can use to ward off debilitating night terrors; and Doral Academy in Nevada, where the team established a food rescue and distribution program to combat food insecurity in their community.
To hear Tia tell it, middle schoolers’ youth is an important factor in these displays of STEMpathy, “Being young, you just want to focus on bringing some help into the world, and you go do it. And hopefully, that carries on and you keep on doing it as you become an adult.”
What’s the most important thing you learned or took away from Samsung Solve for Tomorrow?
“This was the first STEM competition in which our class participated – and we were very nervous backstage. We had technical problems with our presentation, and even forgot to have the judges try out the QR codes like we’d planned. But at the end of the day, the experience helped me get more comfortable with public speaking and be more confident in general.”
“Another important thing for me was that competing in Solve for Tomorrow allowed me to talk to more people, people I didn’t know, and learn more of their stories. The kids at the Solve for Tomorrow final pitch event came from so many places all over the United States. Hearing their stories and understanding their challenges made me realize there was so much more out there than I’d been familiar with.”
What’s your advice to STEM students and teachers who might consider entering Solve for Tomorrow next year?
“If you see a problem – don’t overthink it. If there’s a problem, jump on it. It will work out in the end. Connecting that passion to do something, and then knowing other kids and their challenges, when you do make that connection, it’s going to be amazing.”