Evanston students advance in national STEM contest

Evanston High School students Jerum Merrill, Siler Weaver, Kasen Landry and Avery Beaudoin recently learned their project has advanced to the next round of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM Contest. (COURTESY PHOTO/Colin Wilson)

EVANSTON — A team of four Evanston High School students has been named as one of 300 state finalists in the 10th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, one of the five teams in Wyoming advancing to the next round. The contest is open to sixth through twelfth grade students, who use classroom skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to develop innovative solutions to real-world problems. 

High school teacher Colin Wilson presented the contest to a couple of his classes and encouraged them to come up with project ideas. Students in his design and fabrication class teamed up and generated ideas, which were then shared and discussed by the students as a whole. The class then voted on which project to submit.

Seniors Jerum Merrill and Kasen Landry, junior Siler Weaver and freshman Avery Beaudoin utilized a Raspberry Pi — a credit-card sized computer with extensive capabilities — to make a prototype of an electronic system that could make use of either school ID cards or student fingerprints to automatically take classroom attendance. They then expanded on the idea to utilize the same technology to allow students to use fingerprints or ID cards to register for school events and then built on it even more by realizing it could also be used to track students in case of an emergency at school, allowing students to be accounted for more quickly and easily. 

Out of more than 2,000 national entries, the EHS team was selected as one of the 300 finalists. The boys are now challenged to refine their proposal and focus on all the tiny details involved, with a new submission deadline of Dec. 4 for the next round. From that point, according to a press release from Samsung, projects will be narrowed to 100 finalists that will each receive $15,000 in technology and supplies for their classrooms. 

Out of those 100, 20 will be elected to travel to an event in the spring to present projects to a panel of judges, with $50,000 in technology and classroom materials on the line. Five grand prize winning school projects will each receive $100,000 in prizes and a trip to Washington, D.C., to present projects to members of Congress. 

What’s really exciting for the students, according to Wilson, is the chance that what now exists only as a prototype might get to become reality and turned into a functioning tool if the project advances. 

Other Wyoming finalists include students from Powell High School, Cheyenne’s Central High School, Newcastle High School and CY Middle School in Casper. 

Wilson said finding out his students had advanced was like a “proud papa moment,” adding, “I could never come up with some of the ideas that these kids generate on an almost daily basis. They’re amazing kids.” 

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