FIVE THINGS ABOUT SOME SMART STUDENTS
The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest asked for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) solutions to the biggest challenge facing a school community. Each of five teams won US$100,000 for technology and supplies for their science classrooms.
IT’S ALL ABOUT PREPARATION In late May, storms flooded streets in south Florida, sinking cars and turning roads into brown rivers. A team of local middle school students devised a plan to stop the ongoing flooding problem. Three sixth-graders designed a device to warn city workers when and where there was a danger of flooding. Flash flooding can happen when storm drains get plugged and, especially during hurricanes, overflow into streets. It’s the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the United States.
TECH TALK The students’ device uses lidar, a laser system, which, if approved by the city government, could be attached to the area’s 2,575 storm and manhole drains — one device per drain. If a drain gets clogged, the device could send a computer alert to the city’s stormwater management office. Then the stormwater manager could send someone to clean the drain.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE The three STEM whizzes worked closely with their science teacher, figuring out what each was good at. For Jose, that involved exposing the problem and coding. For Alyssa, it was calculating costs. For Bianca, it was understanding how lidar works. Class parents who were engineers and website coders helped them figure out details.
GOOD SCREEN TIME When the school closed in March, team meetings went virtual. Luckily, says Bianca, “We already had a prototype device, and we just had to tweak it some more.” They then had to pitch their idea virtually to contest judges.
WORTHY WINNERS Twenty finalist teams were whittled down to five grandprize-winning teams. One team made a wildfire alert, another designed an app to prevent deaths of kids left in hot cars. Another presented an app that helps people recycle, and in Wisconsin, kids created a sensor that lets ice fishers know when it’s safe to walk on frozen lakes.