West Bountiful Samsung Solve for Tomorrow team

STEM teacher Kennedy Miller with West Bountiful Elementary's sixth-grade team competing in the national Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition, taken during the fall of 2019.

It’s not common for elementary schools to advance in Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow Contest, but two from Northern Utah have.

West Bountiful Elementary in Davis School District and Eden’s Valley Elementary School in Weber School District made the top 300 schools in the country in the contest out of 2,000 entrants, along with four other schools in Utah.

Participating schools develop projects to help their communities using STEM — science, technology, engineering and math.

The two teams won Samsung tablets for their classrooms, and the chance to advance in the competition, said Kennedy Miller, STEM teacher at West Bountiful Elementary and advisor to the school’s team.

In the contest, elementary schools are pitted against high schools and middle and junior high schools — there aren’t categories based on age.

Only nine of these top 300 schools are elementary schools, Miller said.

West Bountiful’s team is made up of sixth graders who volunteered to participate.

“The kids were extremely excited,” said Kennedy Miller, STEM teacher at West Bountiful Elementary. “As soon as they found out (they had advanced), they went home and did hours of research — they’re very dedicated kids — and the project is theirs, it’s not mine at all.”

The team at West Bountiful designed a water filter that moves around water bodies to clean them, removing algae and mosquito eggs — and it even looks like a fish.

“We opened it up — (students) were able to pick whatever ideas that they wanted to,” Miller said.

One student was particularly interested in water filtration, did a lot of research and came up with the initial idea — many others gave feedback and suggested improvements, Miller said.

The team didn’t build their design before moving into the top 300, but they hope to advance to the stage where they will be making their design come to life, Miller said.

The “fish” filter will be between 1 1/2 and 2 feet long, and it will move through the water, self-propelled by solar and water power.

“Almost like a Roomba (robot vacuum) for the water,” Miller said.

Students also want to design an app to give real-time feedback on the state of the water, she said.

If schools advance to the top 100 — and they should find that out within the next couple of weeks — the teams will get to Skype with a Samsung engineer, who will help them improve their prototypes. These prototypes will be narrowed to 20, and top winners will be determined by a social media competition.

School teams who make it to the top 100 earn $15,000 in technology in their school. Top 20 teams earn $50,000 in technology for their schools, and the five grand-prize winners earn $100,000 in technology, Miller said.

Valley Elementary School’s project was a continuation of a project the school began last year “to create a user friendly air sensor to help families determine air quality in their immediate area,” according to a Samsung press release and the school’s principal, Jonathan England.

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