Samsung Solve for Tomorrow national finalists and winners from the 2017-2018 season of the nationwide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) competition attended Samsung Developer Conference 2018 to meet some of the nation’s best developers, learn about Samsung’s new technological innovations, and personally present their projects to DJ Koh, President and CEO of IT & Mobile Communications Division, Samsung Electronics.
The six students and their teachers were flown to San Francisco from across the country to attend the event and share their ideas and projects that tackle some of America’s toughest problems.
The Samsung Developer Conference was the first time that many of these students have seen each other since the final pitch day for the competition in New York City last April, where they presented their ideas in front of an expert panel of judges, competing for a chance to win a share of the $2 million in Samsung technology for their schools.*When they were all together again in the entrance hall of the Samsung Developer Conference, wearing their conference badges and chatting with familiar faces, the students and teachers reflected on the competition and the importance of STEM education.
“It’s important to study STEM. It’s the future of our entire nation. Technology is really what pushes us to evolve,” said Harshil P., a national finalist from California who is now attending his freshman year at UC San Diego. “Samsung Solve for Tomorrow influenced my decision to study aerospace engineering.”
Jonathan Harvey, who guided his Cavallini Middle School students to one of the competition’s top three spots with their app and accelerometer prototype aimed at reducing the number of concussions that go undetected in school sports, said participating in Samsung Solve for Tomorrow gave his students an outlet to use their creative spirit.
“The Solve for Tomorrow contest is the perfect example of getting kids to work through challenges and come up with new ideas for how to solve a problem that means something to them,” said Harvey.
During the conference’s opening keynote speech, Samsung CEO DJ Koh kicked off the event with a special moment where he congratulated the students in front of thousands of developers.
“I’m especially excited to welcome a special group of young innovators. They are the winners of Samsung Solve for Tomorrow, our annual STEM competition for students. I love what they have created – a virtual reality learning space for children with autism, sensors to identify sports concussions, and an app-based system to fight wildfires and save lives.
“It’s all part of Samsung’s commitment to helping young people learn the skills they will need to succeed in a technology-driven future. During the past eight years more than 640,000 students in 26 countries have participated,” said Koh.
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The students then stood up together in the first row, smiling at each other as the whole room clapped and recognized them for their achievements before Samsung’s CEO and executives went on to reveal the company’s latest announcements in intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Mobile UX such as powerful new developer tools for Bixby and SmartThings, as well as new mobile experiences with One UI and the foldable Infinity Flex Display.
That afternoon, the students and their teachers took the stage alongside Ann Woo, Sr. Director of Corporate Citizenship for Samsung Electronics America, to present their projects to conference attendees and hold a Q&A.
“Our contest invites students to incorporate out-of-box thinking and address issues in a problem-solving manner,” said Woo. “We’ve really been able to, over the years, unlock the true potential of these students.”
Before and after their presentations the students conducted one-on-one demonstrations of their projects at the Samsung Corporate Citizenship booth at the conference, shaking hands and meeting with developers and businesspeople who understood the amount of effort it took to accomplish what these students did.
“These guys are in high school, so it’s really amazing what they developed with these projects,” said conference attendee Silvio Marques from Brazil.
A surprise visitor also came by the booth while the students were explaining their innovations to the crowds: DJ Koh. Koh and other Samsung executives visited the students while they presented their projects, asking questions and trying out the students’ prototypes themselves.
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“Me trying to remember all my Korean words was my way in – I was just really excited to meet him and it was really cool to see that he was open to having a conversation with me,” said Lauren S., a Samsung Solve for Tomorrow national finalist from Santiago High School in California who is now attending her freshman year at UC San Diego and plans to study international business.
“After the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition I’ve definitely had a lot more awareness of what I want to do and what my passions are. I have a lot more confidence with anything I do,” Lauren said.
The students weren’t the only ones who were excited to meet the global CEO.
“DJ Koh just gave me his business card?” said Michigan’s Kent Career Tech Center teacher Marc Petz, standing with his students and gazing at the card in disbelief. “I’ll have to frame it.”