NEWARK – Worcester Technical High School will advance to the next round in a national STEM competition for a chance to win new technology.
Worcester Technical High School has been named one of five state finalists in this year’s Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, a national program that encourages students to solve complex issues in their community using science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). As a state finalist, the school will receive a Samsung tablet and will advance to the next round in the competition, in which a state winner will be selected.
This year, students in Valerija Zienty’s pre-engineering class submitted a project proposal to prevent sexual assault using their STEM skills. She said the idea emphasizes the Me Too movement.
“Right now, the Me Too movement has penetrated every corner of the country and even our own community …,” she said. “With college on the horizon and unreported incidents on campuses and in the workplace, students felt something had to be done about it.”
While the proposal is still in its conceptual phase, Zienty said her students have considered developing an alert system attached to clothing or shoes, safe spaces for survivors and more.
“I don’t know what they are going to invent just yet,” she said.
Zienty said the contest allows her students to take charge of their education and let their voices be heard.
“In my opinion, the biggest hurdle in education is the ownership of learning,” she said. “Most of the time they are asked to do something they didn’t pick themselves and it impacts their attention span. If I give them something they selected to work on, it gives them more motivation.”
This will be the fourth year Zienty’s pre-engineering class has entered the Solve for Tomorrow Contest.
In 2013, Worcester Tech was among 15 national finalists and received $32,000 worth of technology for working with Atlantic General Hospital to redesign the emergency room. And the following year, the school was a state finalist for an Ebola telemedicine project in which students designed protective gear for physicians.
In 2015 – the last time Zienty’s students entered the competition – the school was a state winner and received $20,000 in new technology for the design of a robot that collects roadside litter.
“I have very bright students this year that are doing additional work in their free time …,” she said. “I’m hoping our lesson plan gets selected and our project gets shown to the world.”
Zienty said she is reaching out to local representatives, businesses and government agencies in the coming days to come and talk to her class about the prevalence of sexual assault in the community and the ways public and private sectors are addressing the issue. She noted the discussion could prompt more ideas for the project.
Zienty added she has until Dec. 10 to submit an activity plan for the project and state winners will be announced on Dec. 22. From there, state winners must submit a video of their project in action and national finalists will be announced in March.
If selected as a national finalist, the students will attend a Pitch Event, in which they will present their project to a panel of judges. The three national winners that are selected each will received $100,000 in classroom technology and supplies.
In total, state and national finalists and winners each receive a share of $2 million in Samsung technology.
“I’m just happy that my students get to do something that matters and that people will notice what they do,” Zienty said. “I’m happy they are working on something that is meaningful to them.”