STEAMulating Service Learning Through the Solve for Tomorrow Contest
As a middle school science teacher in a low income school district, I was asked by my principal to launch the school’s first-ever STEAM course with very limited resources. I approached designing my class and the curriculum to be original and innovative, while at the same time having the potential to make a difference in the lives of my students. After the first year, I knew we had developed something special. I was encouraged to enter the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, which turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime game-changer for me, my students and our school district.
My STEAM course is designed around the central idea of helping physically impaired students and their families overcome the financial obstacles associated with high-priced assistive devices. We turned donated, recyclable materials into customized, highly functional and the fundamental elements of STEAM into this project They were not only creative in brainstorming new ideas and designs, but actually free assistive aids. In creating these devices, my students incorporated exercised that creativity in bringing their designs to life—showing why they are on their way to becoming this country’s next great group of innovators.
Due to the lack of technology in my school and the district overall, my students thought outside the box and sought to use the resources they had available to design and create the therapeutic devices —namely cardboard and glue. When their devices were completed, they were able to hand-deliver them to the specific students the devices were designed for.
The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest asks contestants to: “Show how STEAM can be applied to improve your local community.” The difference my students made and continue to make is coming up with solutions to help their school district and disabled peers with the financial constraints of new therapeutic equipment. To date, we have saved our district more than $30,000. But more importantly my students get the opportunity to give back to our local community by helping those who need it most.
Through the SfT Contest, Samsung has shown me, my students, my school and our community that we can make a real difference in the world with creativity and ingenuity. I entered the contest because I believed in my students, and that when given the right tools, there was no limit to their potential. At the end of the contest, it was clear that the contest judges saw the benefit of our efforts. My school was named a national winner and received more than $120,000 in desperately needed technology that gives our students the chance for a brighter tomorrow. Samsung also treated us with a trip to New York City to hang out at the company’s new experiential center, Samsung 837, and to Washington, D.C., to receive accolades from our state representatives!
If you believe your school is making a difference in your local community, don’t hesitate to enter the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest!
About the Contributor
Ryan Wideman is a science teacher at Ridgewood Middle School in Arnold, Missouri. Mr. Wideman and his students were named as one of five national winners in the 2016 Solve for Tomorrow Contest.