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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.

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