Students utilize STEM skills

Groups from both Sussex Central High School and Millsboro Middle School have been named state finalists in the 10th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest.

The contest, which awards $3 million annually, asks students in grades six through 12 to use STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to solve a community challenge. Over 2,000 schools from throughout the country entered and only 300 were selected as state finalists.

At Sussex Central High School, art and media teacher D Morelli advises the Technology Student Association. She and her students submitted a proposal to educate users of drive-on beaches in Delaware.

“I surf-fish in the area and I thought about the number of vehicles that get stuck in the sand. Primarily, I think, because of the lack of education,” Morelli said.

That education could come in many forms, from informational signs to QR codes. In the next phase of the project, Morelli said an advisory board could be created to provide the students with more details on the problem, with representatives from groups like the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the fishing community.

“It’s just really cool to show the kids that they can do something more than just an assignment,” she said. “This is a real-world problem that they can find solutions for.”

Sarah Betlejewski (just call her Mrs. B) is a seventh-grade science teacher at Millsboro Middle School. She selected students to participate in the contest herself.

“We’re looking at creating tick traps that will lure the ticks in with natural elements, trap them to a sticky surface and sort of lure them away from community areas where people would interact with them. So they would be on the perimeters of playgrounds, football fields, yards,” she said.

The students are also devising a way to send the number and type of ticks trapped to researchers, such as through an app. Betlejewski said the group will continue with the project no matter the contest results.

As state finalists, both teachers received a free Samsung tablet for their classroom. State winners, to be announced later this month, will receive $15,000 worth of technology and classroom materials. After that, the contest is narrowed down to 20 national finalists. The overall winners are announced in April.

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