NEWARK — Though this is Judy Butler’s first year to teach at Cedar Ridge High School in Newark, she and her students are making a name for themselves through the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow 2014 Education Contest.
Students who are involved in the project range from seventh- to 12th-graders.
In 2010, Samsung started the Solve for Tomorrow contest, giving schools across the United States the opportunity to raise students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by awarding their schools with a share of $2 million in technology through the years, according to Samsung’s website.
To get through the first phase of the contest, teachers are required to verify how their project will raise students’ interest in STEM, explain how to engage students to enthusiastically participate in the project and describe the school’s and the students’ need for technology.
Butler’s classes at Cedar Ridge High School have already won phase 1 of the contest, in which up to five entries per state are chosen as winners. According to the contest’s official rules, entries with the highest judging scores are deemed potential state finalists. By winning phase 1, the school received two Samsung Galaxy Tablets, valued at $399.99 each, and was selected as Arkansas’ state finalist.
For their contest entry, Butler and her classes have been going all over Newark and surrounding areas, such as Cord and Charlotte, to see how prepared the community would be in an emergency situation.
For phase 2, teachers have to complete a lesson plan showing how their students would create a video outlining how STEM can be applied to improve the safety of their environment.
Butler’s students are using this opportunity to create an emergency-preparedness plan for Newark and surrounding areas.
Seniors Bryce Cash and Jeffrey Steward are heading up the project. They have measured buildings in the school district to see how stable they would be in the event of a tornado and if they could serve as a communitywide shelter.
“The basis of our project is to design an emergency-prep manual, and then we want to distribute it throughout the community,” Cash said.
The students put together a survey and sent it out to area residents.
“We asked questions like, ‘Do you have a storm cellar? What do you do in the event of a storm? What stuff should you take with you?’” Steward said. “We figured out that people don’t know very much about how to act during a disaster.”
Butler said she is proud of her students and the initiative they have taken on their project.
“We went and interviewed the mayor, and he’s really excited.
We sent out the surveys through the water department,” she said. “The big thing was to tie STEM into [our project].”
After being named a state winner and completing phase 2, the school was awarded with one Samsung laptop, one Samsung camcorder and Adobe editing software to make a video explaining their project and how it would benefit Newark and the surrounding communities of Cord and Charlotte.
The students used their STEM skills to figure out the wind load certain buildings around town could withstand and whether they could serve as storm shelters.
“We went online and found a manual from the Society of Civil Engineers. It had the [Federal Emergency Management Agency] guidelines [for a storm shelter] and how to determine the wind load of a building,” Cash said.
The project has given the students some “real-world” experience by giving them the chance to take the skills they learn while sitting behind a desk and use them outside the classroom.
Butler and her students at Cedar Ridge High School were among 2,300 schools that entered the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest.
“Once we get it completed, we’re going to distribute the emergency-preparedness manual throughout the community. We took information from our survey to decide what people needed in that manual and had to decide how to put that into a booklet.”
Butler and her students don’t yet know if they have won in phase 3, but if they do, their video will be up for online voting and judging. If they make it to phase 4, Cedar Ridge High School will compete as one of the 15 national finalists.
Representatives from the schools will then be invited to a location determined by Samsung to present the students’ videos and projects to a panel of judges, and 10 finalists will be chosen. Three schools will ultimately be selected to receive national prizes, which consist of $125,000 worth of Samsung merchandise, a $7,000 grant from DirecTV, $8,100 worth of Adobe software and a trip for four to attend the National Winner Ceremony in Washington, D.C.
One school will be selected as a People’s Choice Award winner, and one school will be chosen as the winner of the Ambassador’s Award. Both recipients will receive the same prizes as the three national winners.
Butler said that even if her students don’t make it to the final rounds, she’s proud of them and plans to complete the emergency-preparedness plan for the city.
“No one who works for the city has the time to do something like this,” she said. “Even if we lose, we win. There’s not going to be a loser because we all live in this community.”