Students use tech to fight COVID, advocate for racial justice in Samsung contest – CNET

This story is part of Tech for a Better World, stories about the diverse teams creating products, apps and services to improve our lives and society.

On Tuesday, Samsung announced the winners of its annual Solve for Tomorrow contest, a national competition tasking students in grades 6 through 12 with using STEM subjects to solve a problem in their local community. The winning projects are aimed at combating COVID-related loneliness and depression, cleaning litter from abandoned sites and using smartphones to more easily record interactions with law enforcement for accountability. 

Since 2010, Solve for Tomorrow has offered a $2 million prize pool as part of the competition. Seventy-five semi-finalists were awarded $15,000 in technology and supplies, and 10 national finalists were chosen to participate in a virtual pitch event to present their project to a panel of judges. Seven of those finalists will be awarded $65,000 in tech and classroom supplies, and the three grand prize winners will get $130,000. 

“Students today are listening — they’re internalizing all of the issues, and they feel empowered to do something about it,” Ann Woo, director of Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow program, told CNET. “This is a generation where students are not waiting for others to fix it for them. They’re saying ‘This is around me, I don’t want to wait much longer, and I’m going to be the one to do it.'”

Here’s a bit more about the three national grand prize winners this year:

Hope of Detroit Academy (Detroit, Michigan)

Students from Hope of Detroit Academy live in a community with excessive amounts of garbage, used tires left in open spaces and unsecured abandoned homes. For their project, students created an app called the Green Warrior to track these sites and report them to local organizations that help lead clean-up efforts. 

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The winning project team from Hope of Detroit Academy built an app to help clean up their community. 

Hope of Detroit Academy

Porter High School (Porter, Texas)

As many as one in four older adults reported having anxiety or depression amid the pandemic — especially concerning, as these conditions lead to increased risk of developing dementia and other serious health concerns. Students from Porter High School created an app-website combo called Gen-Bridge, which connects students and others to seniors living in assisted living facilities, to have video calls or play games virtually. 

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Students from Porter High School built an app and website to help students connect with older adults.

Porter High School

Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy (Erie, Pennsylvania)

After protests over racial justice erupted nationwide last summer, students from Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy decided to take on a project that could help people more easily use their smartphones to record interactions with law enforcement officers during protest, rallies and routine traffic stops, to help capture and deter potentially threatening situations. They developed a voice-activated mobile app that turns phones into body or dash cameras when a trigger word is said, to capture the interaction. 

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Students from Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy coded an app that can more easily turn on your phone’s camera.

Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy

Nearly 25,000 schools have participated in Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest since its inception. 

For more, check out how Apple’s Swift Student Challenge winners are fighting coronavirus

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