The 20 teams of young scientists from public schools around the country that advanced to the national finals of the 2019-2020 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Competition have put the finishing touches on their projects – projects that have already made a difference at their schools and in their communities. The contest, which challenges 6th through 12th graders to solve a problem in their community using science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), has brought out the inner engineer in every participant. Now, they’re telling their story.
Ahead of the final phase in this year’s contest, the pitch event, in which each team presents their STEM solution to a panel of judges, Samsung U.S. Newsroom posed 20 questions to the 20 national finalist teams about their Solve for Tomorrow journey. Read on to get to know each team and their innovative ideas for bridging STEM skills with social impact.
Finding Their Spark
Did you surprise yourself by participating in Solve for Tomorrow?
If you had told me at the beginning of the school year that I would create an app that uses Bluetooth to work with another device, I would not have thought it was possible.”
Carty and her teammates at Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro, TN tackled the problem of distracted driving because their state was named number one in the nation for distracted driving in 2019. The students designed an app to monitor driving distractions with the goal of helping drivers recognize situations that distract them and make a change in their driving habits. Watch the Central Magnet School team’s video below showing their STEM solution in action.
How do you encourage students to pursue STEM?
Make sure that the learning reflects the real world and applies to their lives outside the school building.
In Omro, WI the team found a more unique problem to address: Keeping winter ice fishing enthusiasts safe on the ice each year. The team decided to use robotics and soundwaves to measure ice thickness and send the data to the app they built called “Stat-Ice.” Watch below to see all the hard work and learning team Omro accomplished to reduce accidents while enjoying one of their community’s most popular sports.
What was your team’s ultimate goal for your project?
By designing a device that is safe, simple and secure, we could prevent one more youth suicide, save one child’s life.
Team Goddard invented a safe lock notification system intended to be an extra layer of security for gun safes that, statistics show, too many young people gain access to. In the team’s video describing their project they explain how they wanted the device to be simple to use, easy to install and refrain from altering the safe in any way. But the STEM skills they employed to come up with a working prototype are far from simple! Take a look.
What is one of your team’s unique characteristics?
Diversity. We’re all different, but we all want to save lives.
Ashland Middle School, now a three-time National Finalist in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest and a National Winner in 2018 is pursuing their second Grand Prize win with a device to help mobility-impaired students escape a multi-level building in a fire, and an app to alert school officials of their location that is now in use across their school district. See the app and mobility chair in action in the video below.
What changes have you noticed in your team, other students, parents and your community through your team’s participation in Solve for Tomorrow?
The team has become significantly more motivated each step of the way. Parents have taken a more supportive role, and our community has taken notice. More students have requested to be part of the team for next year.
In Arizona, drought is a harsh reality and requires costly maintenance of water catchment tanks by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to ensure wildlife has the water they need. See how Blue Ridge Jr. High students designed a low-cost sensor to monitor water levels in the tanks and help decrease time and cost associated with managing the wildlife water program.
What was your team’s motivation in designing this project?
We want to honor our veterans and help many other people.
Did you know Arkansas ranks as one of the highest states for amputation and 72% of amputees suffer from Phantom Limb Pain? As the team from George Junior High School describes it, Phantom Limb Pain occurs when the nerves that the brain associates with the limb remain, and the damage to these nerves results in the person feeling pain. Motivated by a desire to help veterans, the students from Springdale, AR, developed a therapeutic virtual reality experience to help alleviate the Phantom Limb Pain that veterans and other amputees suffer from. See the results of the team’s STEM project in the video below.
How do you think your project can improve the world?
We hope that by harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to educate about recycling, we can make a difference for tomorrow’s generation, one person at a time.
The students at North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham, NC got motivated to put their STEM skills to work to improve recycling rates and make a positive impact on the planet. Using artificial intelligence, the group built an app that can help users identify recyclables properly with the goal of reduce waste contamination at recycling sites that often causes all of the waste to be sent to landfills. Watch team North Carolina’s video describing their Solve for Tomorrow project below.
What have you learned from participating in the Solve for Tomorrow challenge and how are you feeling about working on your team’s project?
So far I have learned in more detail of the molecular, electricity, and coding as well as fast prototyping and I’m excited, inspired and thrilled.
Students at Chawanakee Academy Charter School in O’Neals, CA are all too familiar with poor air quality resulting from wildfires. After learning that more than 40% of residents in their community report health problems based on the air quality, they set out to create a “smart mask” that uses an alert system to warn of hazardous chemicals and health risks in the air due to wildfires. Check out the team’s work below.
What do you hope your Solve for Tomorrow project will achieve?
We hope that with our device, kids with ADHD can have a better relationship with their teachers and fellow students, making them more included, rather than excluded, because of their condition.
Addressing a prevalent disability for many students, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the students at North Pole Middle School in Alaska wanted to find a non-medical solution to help increase focus in students struggling to concentrate on their studies. Check out their video to see how they built an app for a wearable device to help mitigate distractions and keep them more engaged in learning.
How have you intended your project to help support people’s mental health?
This project gives students access to an outlet that many of us can’t get with therapy.
According to the team’s research, 80% of children with diagnosable anxiety disorder are not treated medically, despite anxiety being a treatable condition. Due to lack of access to treatment in smaller communities, the Solve for Tomorrow team at Edward C. Reed High School in Sparks, NV designed a 3-D printed soothing device that uses sensors to send signals to an app with tools to help calm someone down during an anxiety attack. Check it out.
How do you intend your STEM project will help save lives?
Our STEM solution increases the safety of pedestrians in any community by proactively and interactively reminding drivers how to stop properly and safely.
The students at Loudoun Valley High School hope to put an end to drivers running stop signs in their community and identify higher risk intersections. To do so, they used STEM skills to design a solar-powered smart stop sign that gives an approaching driver visual feedback on their speed to encourage a complete stop. See how they even went a step further with Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping software to allow authorities to assess which intersections pose the greatest risk to pedestrians simply by logging all the stops made for analysis by authorities.
DEVELOPING SKILLS FOR LIFE
What do you hope to achieve for your own personal development by the end of the contest?
I hope to continue to believe in myself and know that I can accomplish tasks bigger than I once thought possible.
For their STEM project, the students at Center Grove High School in Greenwood, IN wanted to help low-income families save on energy costs, so they developed a portable, low-cost and easy application insulation solution to be applied to walls in mobile homes to ensure better heat retention. See how the product can help decrease heat loss by more than 60%.
What would your school do with the Solve for Tomorrow grand prize?
We don’t have technology available for every student. This opportunity would allow us to offer technology to every student in middle school for use at home and school.
For their STEM project, focused on saving lives, the young scientists at Newark Charter School in Newark, DE designed a backpack wearable device to share real-time alerts with students in the event of an emergency. Using a 3-D printer, circuits and micro bit technology the team programmed the device to send a radio signal and activate the alert system at the press of a button by a school administrator or teacher. Check it out below.
TEAMWORK AND PROCESS
What are some of your favorite elements of your Solve for Tomorrow team’s process?
We are proud of our smart-helmet design and our collaborative and creative process. We also listened to and engaged with our community to bring our idea to life.
Keeping bicyclists safe on the busy streets of New York City was the main goal of the Solve for Tomorrow STEM project for team Gregorio Luperon High School. See how the students designed a smart helmet and bicycle system to provide real time information to cyclists about their immediate surroundings using sensors, allowing them to be active participants in their own safety.
What has your team’s process been like since producing the prototype?
The development didn’t stop there. We presented our idea at the Climate Action Summit, where we received really useful suggestions from various tech and climate specialists.
Also located in California, the students at Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon set out to find a way to potentially prevent wildfires based on weather conditions that can feed the flames. The team created a low-cost sensor that can detect wind speed, humidity, and temperature, indicating a possible risk of fire in a particular area. Watch the video below to see how the sensor can relay that information back to the local fire department.
How easy is your Solve team’s device to use?
h the help of local engineers, we designed a prototype that is small and able to fit on the back of our Samsung phone.
As a returning National Finalist in the competition, students at Northern Cass School in Hunter, ND are no strangers to putting their STEM skills to work with the goal of saving lives. This year, the all-girl team decided to tackle the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning due to their community’s harsh winters that can lead to snow piling up and blocking exhaust from being released into the air. See how the students designed a portable carbon monoxide detector that is affixed to smartphones to alert residents of high carbon monoxide levels wherever they go.
How has your community responded to your team’s Solve for Tomorrow project?
It’s an idea that makes the city safer.
Flash flooding is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S., according to research done by the team at Downtown Doral Charter Upper School in Doral, FL. That’s why the students decided to tackle the problem with their STEM knowledge and create a device to detect sediment build-up that often leads to poor drainage during a flash flood. Check out their video to see how the device uses a LIDAR sensor and microcontroller to share real-time updates with local officials to ensure cleaning and maintenance is carried out.
How did you engage community experts to help develop your project?
We conducted community focus groups to find out how we can make our project a success.
With vaping a common problem across the nation and in their school, the students at Liberty Avenue Middle School in Brooklyn set out to create a solution that could help curb someone’s vaping addiction. After a poll of their peers showed that more than 60% didn’t know where to seek help if they became addicted to vaping, the students developed a sensor for vaping devices that tracks the amount of “pulls” daily, tests for harmful additives and provides education and cessation information. Check out the team’s work below.
What’s next for your Solve team’s project?
Our local mayor asked us to speak about our project at the next city council meeting.
At Fairfield High School in Ohio, the students worked on developing a new solution to prevent child fatalities due to pediatric heatstroke after being accidentally locked in a hot car. Their device detects an unknown weight remaining in the car seat of a vehicle, which connects to an app that alerts car owners before they move too far away from the vehicle. Watch how this group of students put their STEM skills to work to save lives.
CHARTING THEIR FUTURE
What are your team’s plans for your project after the Solve for Tomorrow contest is over?
In the future, we hope to include citizen scientists as part of our project. We would like to create an open domain map for the public so its ease of use and data can be shared with everyone around the world.
Recognizing that lead levels going undetected in water is a serious problem in their community and across the U.S., the students at Belleville High School knew immediately that this was the problem they wanted to tackle as part of the Solve for Tomorrow contest. With added guidance from community experts and their Samsung mentor, they came up with an app to test for lead ions in water and help prevent lead poisoning. Check out their work below.