OK, I admit it—I'm a sucker for student academic competitions.
Especially when they involve kids attempting to solve real problems in their own communities—and when one of those communities is my adopted hometown of Philadelphia (which Lord knows has its share of problems.)
So color me a fan of this year's Solve for Tomorrow contest, an effort by consumer-electronics giant Samsung to promote enthusiasm in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education by awarding $2 million to teams of students in grades 6-12. This year's crop of 15 finalists—who hail from Washington, D.C., Florida, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Washington—gathered Monday in Austin, Texas to present their work at the South by Southwest education conference.
Three grand prize winners will be chosen by a panel of judges, another will be selected by Samsung employees, and a fifth will be selected via public online voting. Cast your ballot here until 11:59pm Eastern on Wednesday, March 14.
There are plenty of awesome projects to choose from, including:
Taking Care of Crabiness: Students at the Frank H. Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth, Maine proposed strategies for eliminating the threat caused to their state's $11 million per year clamming industry by the invasive European Green Crab.
Lighting Up A Community: Students at Howard Dilworth Woodson STEM High School in Washington, D.C. studied crime data and developed a proposal to use solar-powered lights to illuminate a local park that is currently unsafe for students' commutes.
Diagnosing a Hospital: Students at the Worcester Technical High School in Newark, Md. worked with a local community hospital to redesign the hospital's outpatient/emergency department waiting area, incorporating research on privacy and confidentiality, infection control, staff security, and more.
Braving the Storms: After mining climate data from the National Weather Service and Oklahoma Climatological Survey, students at El Reno High School in El Reno, Okla. proposed the optimal location for a local tornado shelter.
And Finding the Safest Route, by students from my hometown favorite, Academy at Palumbo High in South Philadelphia, who used crime statistics to design a system for students in the city—many of whom have recently been displaced by school closures—to find the the safest, most efficient routes to and from their school.
Videos of all the projects can be found here.
The five grand-prize winners will receive $140,000 in technology for their schools.
This is the fourth year of Solve for Tomorrow contest.
Follow @BenjaminBHerold for live updates from SXSWedu.