A group of Carthage Junior High School students has put their heads together to come up with a way to help battle Missouri’s drought problems. Their work has landed them a spot in Samsung’s 13th annual Solve for Tomorrow national competition.

“I’m so encouraged by having these minds in my classroom,” said Renea Brownfield, a science teacher and STEM Club sponsor at Carthage Junior High. “It’s an honor to get to watch them work like this.”

The electronics company has selected 50 schools as state winners in its latest round of a competition about STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. Carthage Junior High School rose to the top of the Missouri list for its work that includes building prototypes for rain collectors, dew harvesters, water filters and watering systems. They are also researching how to gather renewable energy options from these objects.

“Our STEM Club was created to increase the nutrition and health of our school and our community,” said Brownfield. “Water is not something we should take for granted. As many of them noticed last summer, the extreme lack of water caused a lot of problems and we just never know when the next flood will be. Missouri is notorious for not enough or way too much.”

More than 120 students have been working on this project for about six weeks.

“Samsung is amazing about recognizing the STEM engineering design process,” she said. “I feel that they have blessed us with this award because of the kids’ engineering success, not necessarily the success of their engineering. We don’t have to have a working prototype to move on to the next round, but it’s highly likely that they might have that.”

As the state winner, the school wins a $12,000 prize from Samsung.

On April 19, the field of 50 will be narrowed to 10 national finalists, who will pitch their project to a team of judges during an in-person event in May. Three national winners will ultimately be chosen.

Carthage Junior High is no stranger to the Solve for Tomorrow competition. Brownfield said she has entered her students into the contest for the last several years. In 2017, Carthage Junior High was also a state finalist.

“Some of them are mentoring the students that I have in my classroom now,” she said.

Ann Woo, the Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship at Samsung Electronics America, said the goal of the competition is inspire middle school and high school students to think about STEM in new and exciting ways.

“For so many students, STEM subjects are considered hard. It takes a lot of time,” she said. “It’s not their favorite subjects, but we know that the young generation of students today really want to change the world and we want to show them skills that connect to real social change and make that connection to have them consider careers and areas of study that they may not have considered before.”

Woo said the competition highlights what is top of mind for students and their communities.

“One of the things that we see every year is the rising awareness of climate change and the effects of it and local communities,” said Woo. “We’ve seen issues around school safety, bus safety, and topics that are near and dear to the daily activities and actions of students going to school every day.”

Why did Samsung choose Carthage Junior High?

“Carthage Junior High School did a fantastic job about identifying an issue that they see in their community, a concern they’ve had for a while, with real applicable skills, and a plan on how they choose to move forward,” said Woo.

The other Missouri schools who entered the competition were:

•Hickman High School in Columbia
•Hazelwood West High School
•Monet Middle School
•Republic Middle School
•Jarrett Middle School in Springfield

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