For the second consecutive year, a group of students at West Middle School is the sole Colorado winner in Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest, which nets another $15,000 in prize money for the school and the chance to compete against 99 other schools in the nation for more big bucks.
“These kids did something amazing,” said math teacher Phillip Hutcherson.
Eleven students are working on the project, called “Oh, Hail No,” which proposes a new, improved way to protect vehicles from damage during what have become Colorado’s trademark natural disaster, destructive hail storms. The team is narrowing down the final three designs, the makeup of which are being kept secret.
A three-minute video due by Feb. 20 to contest organizers will showcase the students’ prototype. Samsung is supplying the video kit.
“Young minds have just as much to teach as they do to learn,” Ann Woo, senior director of corporate citizenship at Samsung Electronics America, said in a news release about West being the Colorado recipient.
This is the 10th year for Samsung’s national technology challenge for students to invent a solution for a problem unique to their community. Twenty teams will be declared national competitors for a grand prize of $100,000 in Samsung technology products.
“Regardless if we win the next stage of the competition or not, it is a great way to help the community,” said participating student Leinis Diane Diaz Perez. “It’s been a great experience.”
Hutcherson asked teachers to nominate seventh- and eighth-grade students who “had never had a chance to do something special, but if given the opportunity would step up and do something great.”
The contest provided three important lessons, he said.
“It gives students a sense of self-confidence that they can do something really meaningful at a young age,” he said.
The hard work also resulted in needed money for the school, Hutcherson said.
Like last year, West Middle School in Colorado Springs School District 11 will use the prize winnings to buy Samsung laptops and other devices toward the goal of supplying each of the school’s 280 students an electronic device for schoolwork and to use at home, he said.
The school also purchased large screens for teaching in classrooms last year and may add more this year.
The project also demonstrates the coolness factor of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects, which are heavily incorporated in the work, Hutcherson said.
Last year’s proposal — an interactive communications kiosk for homeless people to access food, shelter, self-care, health services and job training — didn’t advance past the state title. Because the idea had just gotten started, the video students produced wasn’t able to adequately capture the benefits, Hutcherson said.
“It was a bummer,” he said. “We tried to continue to make it happen, but we didn’t have the resources.”
He’s optimistic this year’s concept, which would benefit people caught in “Hail Alley” along Colorado’s Front Range including Colorado Springs, is a solid invention. Most products on the market to prevent vehicle damage have flaws, such as being too time consuming to install or too expensive, ill-fitting or cumbersome, Hutcherson said.
“Students have tried to design products that are efficient, more compact and less expensive,” he said. “We’re engineering it from scratch.”
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