More than 1,100 schools across the country competed for $1 million in technology in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, a national science, technology, engineering and mathematics competition. The finalists gathered at the Samsung Experience in New York City where West Salem High School from Salem, Oregon, was named the grand prize winner.
As part of Samsung’s Hope for Children initiative, and in partnership with Change the Equation and the National Environmental Education Foundation, Solve for Tomorrow aims to increase student interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The five finalists created videos that answered the question, “How can science and math improve the environment in your community?”
The Samsung Experience was full of exciting energy as students looked at and tried out a variety of Samsung products. Prior to arriving in New York, they toured Washington, D.C., and met with state representatives and senators. For many of these students, this was their first visit to Washington, D.C., New York and even the East coast.
Grammy award winner John Legend was on hand to co-host the event with David Steele, EVP of Strategy and Corporate Communications, Samsung Electronics America. He commended the students’ hard work and efforts to use science and technology to make their environment better. Legend, who has partnered with Samsung on this and several other initiatives, also created the Show Me Campaign, which aims to end educational inequality by spreading awareness about the issue and inspiring citizens to fight for every American child's right to a quality public education.
Diane Wood, President of National Environmental Education Foundation, congratulated all the finalists and encouraged them to continue inspiring others through their innovation, commitment, initiative, victories and stories.
Student Kaylynn Hobson and Principal Colter Barnes of Kokhanok School in Kokhanok, Alaska, provided insight into their project and life in Kokhanok, which is a fly-in-only village of 300 people. The students investigated the Spruce Bark Beetle epidemic, which is attributed to global warming and is devastating their local forests. Using algebraic equations, they determined there were 7 million dead trees that needed to be removed from the forests to stop the epidemic. They also recommended environmentally friendly uses of the dead wood, including using it to build homes, heat homes and power homes through the use of Thermal Electric Generators.
Student Jonathan Jackson and Principal Angie Pepin from the South Shore Charter Public School in Norwell, Massachusetts, were invited to the stage to discuss the subject of their video. The school has 535 students and 85 faculty members from 35 towns—with the farthest 37 miles away. After calculating the CO2 emissions of the commuters, the students recognized the need to reduce their carbon footprint. Their solution was the “veggie van,” which runs on vegetable oil. The students have proposed purchasing a new van to further develop their shuttle system.
The Environmental Science class at the Patchogue Medford High School in Medford, New York, conducted a study about the water in their community. The town of Patchogue decided to expand their water treatment plant to reduce the nitrates and phosphates that were flowing into the bay and killing shellfish in the area. The mayor asked the students to study how the water changed following the completion of the water plant. “I’m a firm believer in learning from experience,” said teacher Bob Borowski, pictured with student representative Saad Amer. “But in order to do that, you need the technology to bring out into the field.”
The students of Wheeling High School in Wheeling, Illinois, represented by student Preston Harvey and Principal Dr. Lazaro Lopez, collected exhaust from a tail pipe then performed experiments to determine the amount of carbon the average driver emits. They recognized the relationship between carbon emissions and global warming, and suggested alternative forms of transportation to help save the planet from global warming. “It’s projects like these that have students engaged and feel connected to what they’re going to be doing when they leave school,” said Lopez.
Student Ben Whitenack and teacher Mike Lampert from West Salem High School in Salem, Oregon, discussed how the students from their school recognized that hydro-electric energy was killing salmon through dams as they traveled up the river. The students resolved to save the salmon by promoting eco-friendly energy alternatives to the dams and partnered with a local elementary school to study the water quality necessary for the salmon to survive. In addition, the students built and raced solar-powered cars to learn about solar energy (Whitenack is pictured above with one of the cars he brought along) and engineered wind turbines to learn about wind energy.
Legend and Y.K. Kim, President and CEO of Samsung Electronics North America, presented grand prize winner West Salem High School with a check for $155,000 in technology prizes from Samsung and its partners Microsoft, DirecTV and the Adobe Foundation. They will choose from a range of technology prizes including projectors, smart boards, LED TVs, printers, laptops and software. The school’s use of technology, innovative thinking, and creativity were key factors in setting it apart from the other schools, which was recognized by both a public voting panel and Samsung’s panel of judges.
Representatives from all five schools gathered together for a final group photo. Each of the remaining finalists received $80,000 in technology prizes and everyone went home with amazing memories of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.