Student Competitions

STEM Classes Tackle Community Problems in Samsung Contest

Combine creative teaching with STEM and energetic students, and you'll get guidance on how to design and build eco-friendly mini homeless shelters for homeless teens; apply signal processing in smartwatches to notify pedestrians when vehicles are approaching at unsafe speeds; and explore alternatives for melting ice on city roads without using salt. All of these solutions are finalists in this year's "Solve for Tomorrow" contest, put on by Samsung.

The annual event challenges students to tap their science, technology, engineering and math learning to come up with solutions for community problems. The company reported that more than 4,100 school groups submitted ideas for how they might be able to use STEM to address a local issue. Five teachers from each state were then invited to submit a lesson plan that outlined their problems, goals and related activities. As prizes their classes received two Galaxy tablets. From there, one winning class from each state was invited to develop their project and produce a sub-three-minute video explaining the challenge and how their solution works. Those winners received $20,000 in Samsung technology for their schools, including a Samsung camcorder and laptop to create their videos.

In the next phase, 15 national finalists were chosen, and their videos placed online for eventual public viewing and voting. At that phase, the finalists each received $40,000 in technology from the company for their schools.

The 15 national winners will be winnowed down to five. One of those will be chosen through popular vote. Another will be selected specifically by Samsung employees. And three will be chosen by a panel of judges during an in-person event at the company's New York-based flagship experiential center, Samsung 837. Those five winners are on tap to receive technology grants of $120,000.

The "tiny homes for teens" project was produced at Anoka Middle School for the Arts in Minnesota. The pedestrian smartwatch app is an idea from Brooklyn Technical High School in New York. And the salt-replacement project was entered by Lincoln Middle School in Wisconsin. Other projects propose solutions for classroom furniture that is adaptable for use by special needs students (Ridgewood Middle School in Missouri), ways to improve bee houses to protect bee populations (Lawrence County High in Alabama) and development of a 100-percent renewable and sustainable recharging station for electric cars (Mission Valley ROP at James Logan High in California), along with nine other challenges.

Popular voting on the student videos takes place during the month of March.

The company has published lesson plans submitted by previous winners on the Samsung site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.