We all know Samsung for their leadership in pushing the boundaries in technology by providing innovative and distinctly designed products, but did you know they also inspire innovation for young students? Samsung Canada’s Solve For Tomorrow Challenge asks Canadian students to identify issues within their communities and create a solution using science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Unfortunately more and more high school students are opting out of their elective STEM courses that are often prerequisites for university and colleges. As more students stop studying STEM subjects they also close the door to careers in these fields. Some high school graduates even go back and take high school STEM courses so they can study STEM in post secondary. Samsung kept this alarming fact in mind to create their Solve For Tomorrow Challenge to inspire more students to stay in STEM programs. Mark Childs, Chief Marketing Officer at Samsung Canada spoke about the importance of the company’s involvement.
“Our goal is simple, to inspire students, to re-engage and to get excited about STEM. It’s pretty organic and happens quickly when students are inspired and engaged. Our partnership with Natalie Panek is a perfect marriage because we share that passion for 21st century learning skills and the future of Canada and the passion for STEM.”
Solve For Tomorrow asks students to push the barriers and think outside of the box to create solutions for issues or opportunities that effect Canada, their province, their city or even the world. There were many classes from various schools nationally that created concepts for the issue or opportunity in their community; and identified how they would use emerging technology as a solution. Samsung then narrowed down the finalist to 150 schools nationwide.
To learn more about this initiative I attended Solve For Tomorrow’s finalist announcement at the #GALAXLIFE installation at Yonge and Dundas Square in Toronto. Despite the downpour of rain in the city, the day was full of inspiration that was an eye opening experience to the many ways the next generation of STEM leaders can impact the world. The event celebrated the announcement of the 150 finalist and even showcased one of the finalists, a local school called Precious Blood Catholic School.
At the event Precious Blood Catholic School got to meet and hear a leader in STEM, Natalie Panek, and talk about her career as a rocket scientist. Panek is currently working with NASA to create a solution for space debris orbiting the planet through using a vacuum and robotic arm. Similar to the students, Samsung even challenged her to find a way to incorporate emerging technology into her NASA project. Panek spoke about her idea.
“So I thought it would be so cool to use VR to visualize what that debris will look like. Space debris is a foreign topic because we don’t all travel to space out to orbit to see the debris. So if you can create a way through VR to help people visualize that then maybe it can raise awareness on how big the issue is.”
When she was talking you were able to see the students’ eyes light up. I spoke to Panek about her motivation to be involved as an ambassador for Solve For Tomorrow.
“As an ambassador for Samsung we share a passion for intersection of tech and innovation and how that can really create sustainable thinking and create positive change in communities. There are so many ways that science and tech can help people just lead better lives. When we talk about sustainability it’s about making sure the next generation of young people aren’t burdened by our decisions. By doing positive things now we can ensure we are attaining a sustainable future.”
Ensuring that the next generation of leaders has a bright future stood out in Precious Blood Catholic School’s submission for this initiative. The students saw the opportunity to use VR to map out their community and help familiarize Syrian refugees to banks, bakeries, community centres, grocery stores, government offices and other useful buildings and businesses. I had a chance to talk to one of the students, Meti Dawit, about the school’s projects.
“We saw that some of the Syrian refugees in our community had a hard time moving in and adjusting to our community, so we thought we could help them and decided to. And working with some of the Syrian students in our school they really appreciate this idea and are more comfortable with us.”
Like many of the other students, Dawit expressed her excitement with working with her classmates, Samsung and being inspired by Panek.
“I want to be like Natalie and build robots and different technologies to go out to space.”
Solve For Tomorrow has an impact on these students to open their eyes to the possibility in breaking barriers, creating change in their communities and continuing in STEM programs. The next steps in the challenge are that the winners will be chosen; this year there will be four winners. Each winning class will walk away with $20,000 in Samsung technology to help bring their projects to life. Despite only having four winners, Samsung wants to celebrate all 150 schools and also plans to showcase all of the finalists’ entries at the end of Solve For Tomorrow challenge.
Our full interviews with Natalie Panek, Mark Childs and Meti Dawit are below:
Natalie Panek, Rocket Scientist
Camille: What is this whole initiative with Precious Blood Catholic School?
Natalie Panek: This is all about Samsung’s Solve For Tomorrow campaign that encourages young people to explore opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. Through a challenge of working on a project that can create positive change in their community. So they brought Precious Blood Catholic School out today as a teaser for their announcement of the 150 finalist.
C: You finding more high school students are dropping out f S.T.E.M programs, so why is it important to have a campaign like this that encourages students in these fields?
N: It is so important for young people to realize all of the possibilities that are out there in STEM careers and projects like this are a way to get them involved in hands on work and excited to give back to local communities. You think about how many young people there are in Canada and it’s great that Samsung is promoting that sense of community and getting kids to take part in something like this.
C: Why is it important for you to get involved as the ambassador for Samsung?
N: As an ambassador for Samsung we share a passion for intersection of tech and innovation and how that can really create a sustainable thinking and create positive change in communities. There are so many ways that science and tech can help people just lead better lives. When we talk about sustainability it’s about making sure the next generation of young people aren’t burdened by our decisions. By doing positive things now we can ensure we are attaining a sustainable future.
C: Are there any sustainable projects that you have worked on in your career in science?
N: So I’m working on trying to use robotic arms to repair satellites that have broken down instead of letting it become dead space junk. Mark with Samsung has challenged me to use VR and think of ways that that can be incorporated in to my work. So I thought it would be so cool to use VR to visualize what that debris will look like. Space debris is a foreign topic because we don’t all travel to space, out to orbit to see the debris. So if you can create a way through VR to help people visualize that then maybe it can raise awareness on how big the issue is.
C: Other than sustainability, what inspires you to work on a project like that?
N: Just knowing that you’re constantly learning and taking opportunities to challenge yourself, that is the one of the biggest rewards working in science and tech. You’re constantly overcoming obstacles and barriers for a project you’re working on. I’m surrounded by a passionate and creative team that is thinking of ways to send Rover to Mars and how to use robots to repair space debris. One of the biggest barriers for kids to find careers in STEM is that they don’t know all the things they can do out there. That’s why I like partnering with Samsung as an ambassador because it’s easy to be what you see. Hopefully with them hearing my experience in STEM it will let them know it’s possible and hopefully inspires them.
C: What is the one piece of advice you would give students interested in STEM careers?
N: Dream big and always explores. We are all explorers, anywhere you are as long as you have that curiosity. Also don’t put a limit on your imagination and you can achieve anything.
C: So what is the next phase for the 150 schools?
N: These 150 schools will get some Samsung gear that they can use to implement their ideas and make it a reality.
C: What will be the prizes for the winners?
N: There will be four national winners and they will get $20,000 in Samsung tech for their school.
Mark Childs, Chief Marketing Officer of Samsung Canada
C: What are we doing here today?
Mark: We are here at the Galaxy Life installation at Yonge and Dundas Square and we are celebrating 150 schools announced today as finalist and one of them is Precious Blood School. Each of the schools were tasked with imaging the possibility of the future that address a challenge or opportunity in their community in Canada, a province, a city or even globally.
C: Is this initiative national?
M: Yes this is coast-to-coast we have selected the 150 finalist from, literally coast-to-coast, provinces and territories. And their next task is to bring their idea into reality. We are going to document and capture their journey and their end solution. As well as, for Canada’s 150 we are actually going to celebrate the next 150 with a showcase of their work.
C: What are some of the interesting ideas that you have seen from some of these schools?
M: That is where my passion is, these students don’t have the barriers like you and I. They have an imagination and see the possibility. We’ve seen so many ideas in the environment related to water pollution, light pollution, recycling plastics, how to create sustainable food for local communities and so much more. Precious Blood Catholic School has come up with such an inspiring idea of including refuges in their school communities. This school is a reflection of all the classrooms from all the other 150 schools in Canada, this is Canada for tomorrow.
C: Why is it so important to have Samsung involved in this?
M: Our goal is simple, to inspire students to re-engage and to get excited about STEM. It’s pretty organic and happens quickly, when students are inspired and engaged. Our partnership with Natalie Panek is a perfect marriage because we share that passion for 21st century learning skills and the future of Canada and the passion for STEM. She has been an amazing inspiration for students around the country and students today.
C: What do you think the students will get out of this initiative?
M: I’d like you to meet one of the students, because the first thing you will notice is that they are so excited. They’re excited about the possibilities, their ideas and more importantly excited about the benefit of their ideas. This program lives when there is that energy, passion and excitement for applying STEM to an issue or opportunity. Of course Natalie is inspirational and technologies are a catalyst for that great work but we must not forget the teachers and the schools play an important role.
C: Today I noticed that the students are going crazy over the VR; did you see how excited they are about that?
M: They are and I don’t think they even realized it yet. Usually we go to VR and escaping to an immersive world is gaming and entertainment; but these students conceived an idea that isn’t that. Instead it’s a real life experience that has real benefits for these students that are refugees and taking an opportunity to welcome them further. I see the potential in VR way beyond gaming.
C: So what are the next steps after these 150 classrooms compete?
M: We are going to pick four schools to crown as the Solve For Tomorrow 2017 winners but as I said we are going to celebrate all of the 150 schools this year.
C: This is the second year of Solve For Tomorrow so how have you seen it develop since then?
M: I was blown away last year by the two winner schools; one focused on weather erosion and they figured out the speed of water to stop the flooding in their soccer fields. The other winner tackled a broader issue of micro beads and they created a way to magnetise micro beads out of the water. I was astonished by the depth of both of the winners from last year.
Meti Dawit, Student
C: How was it being a part of this challenge? And what is it your schools idea?
Meti: My school is thinking emerging technology to help the refuges that are new to our school. We have huge community of Syrians coming in to our school and to make our community more familiar to them. We are going to be using VR goggles to show them landmarks of our community like the bakery, hospital, government offices, restaurants and more.
C: And why was it important for you to create an initiative around Syrian refugees?
M: We saw that some of the Syrian refuges in our community had a hard time moving in and adjusting to our community, so we thought we could help them and decided to. And working with some of the Syrian students in our school they really appreciate this idea and are more comfortable with us.
C: What are you looking to get into for STEM?
M: I want to be like Natalie and build robots and different technologies to go out to space.