Educators have been diligently working to prepare the next generation for an ever-changing world as technology continues to evolve and impact our society. However, teachers are finding that laying a foundation of science and math skills is difficult using only the federal Common Core Standards.
"Kids go through science or math education, but they're in the classroom. It's about memorizing things and it's hard to really connect to it," said David Steel, Executive Vice President of Samsung Electronics America.
Samsung Solve for Tomorrow hopes to change this by transforming the way students learn science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by bringing advancements to the children's homes. The contest poses a challenge; students are to show how science and math improves their environment and community. The goal is to solve a tangible problem that affects their neighborhood or families using technology. This helps the "students understand the immediate benefits, learn the broader implications, and hopefully develop a new-found, lasting appreciation for the power of STEM."
Seventh grade students in Kendall, Florida chose to work on farming practices. In their area, residents were not allowed to eat fish from nearby freshwater lakes and canals because farmers used pesticides that contained high mercury levels in local water supplies.
They decided to experiment with "safe, sustainable gardening, without using chemicals" and created a community garden in their school using worms to compost the garden soil, lady bugs for pest control and rainwater collected in buckets instead of pesticides. The sustainable garden experiment produced a variety of fruits and vegetables that the school and community could use. If local farmers choose to follow the students lead, then fish from local waters could someday be back on the dinner menu.
Students at Arrowhead Park Early College High School (APECHS) in Los Cruces, New Mexico had a different ecological challenge. A study published in Science predicted their area will have a permanent drought by 2050 due to global warming. The area also has one of the fastest growing populations in the country.
The students decided to take these problems (little water and lots of people) and find a solution.
They would use the 42,000 homes in their community to collect what water did fall, calculating that they could capture up to 12 percent of the total water consumed during the region's rainy season. After surveying their neighborhood, they proposed a rainwater catchment program using a prototype they designed in their lab.
The model they made stored water in a palm tree shaped container. This model may eventually be a viable solution for the area's water problem.
"We're excited and look forward to working with local industry to fabricate the product," said the school's principal, Jennifer Amis.
These two schools were two of the five grand prize winners in last year's Solve for Tomorrow contest. They each received $110,000 in prizes and won a trip to Washington D.C. to present their research.
By bringing STEM education out of the classroom and using it to solve real-world problems, programs like Solve for Tomorrow not only inspire the next generation of leaders, they also demonstrate how local action can solve global issues. As Congressman Xavier Becerra said in a speech to last year's award winners in Washington D.C., "Every one of us can add our grain of sand to make it possible to build that mountain."