Sisters Middle School teacher Jeff Schiedler’s seventh- and eighth-grade technology class is one of two in Oregon to win the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, resulting in a prize worth $15,000 in technology supplies and equipment.

Clear Creek Middle School in Gresham was the other Oregon winner.

According to a press release from the contest organizers, the nationwide competition challenges students in grades 6-12 to creatively use STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills to address real-world issues in their communities.

Schiedler, who is new to Sisters School District this year following a number of years teaching math in Redmond, got an e-mail about the Samsung Challenge and presented it to his class to see if they were interested. They enthusiastically decided to go for it and proceeded to brainstorm ideas before landing on a plan to develop a system for making drivers safer through creating flashing signs that indicate if the surface of the road is coated with black ice.

“The projects are supposed to find solutions to local problems, so this one really fits where we live here in Central Oregon,” said Schiedler.

Sisters Middle School is among the nation’s 100 state winners (representing all 50 states). In addition to the $15,000 prize, the school will receive a Samsung video kit to create and submit a three-minute video that showcases their project development and how it addresses the issue. The video will be used for the chance to advance to the next phase of the contest and win additional prizes and educational opportunities.

Schiedler spoke to the school board in person on Wednesday, January 8 and expressed how happy he is to have his family living in Sisters.

He explained the basics of the contest and the project.

The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest encourages teachers and students to solve real-world issues in their community using classroom skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“Samsung is extremely proud of the evolution of the Solve for Tomorrow platform over the past 10 years: fueling students’ passion and curiosity to tackle issues that affect their communities in unexpected and creative ways,” said Ann Woo, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship at Samsung Electronics America in a press release announcing the winners. “Reading the innovative proposals students and teachers have put forth this year exemplifies what we know to be true for every student – that young minds have just as much to teach as they do to learn. Our guiding citizenship vision is ‘Enabling People,’ and we are thrilled to celebrate another year of empowering future innovators to achieve their full potential through STEM learning.”

The entire first period technology class, made up of seventh- and eighth-graders, contributed to the project. Most of them had no real formal training in coding, but some gained a strong foundation last year in a class taught by Wes Estvold called “Tinkering.”

Parker Miller says that class gave him the experience and confidence to oversee a lot of the coding and wiring that the group did on the project. Miller explained that the next step is for the group to create a three-minute video of their project in action, which is due later in February.

Conrad Irlam says he was inspired to take the class “to follow in my mom’s footsteps” since she works in the technology industry as a software engineer. He served as a leader in the programming of the signs.

According to the contest press release, 20 national finalist schools will be selected to travel to the final event in the spring, where they will present their project to a panel of judges. For achieving national finalist status, schools will be awarded in total $50,000 in technology and classroom materials.

Five grand-prize national winner schools will receive in total $100,000 in technology and classroom materials, and participate in a trip to Washington, D.C. to present their projects to members of Congress.

Public voting will also determine one Community Choice winner from the pool of national finalists, who will be eligible to win an additional $10,000 in Samsung technology.

Miller said, “It would be pretty cool to be able to make it to the finals and go to Washington, D.C.”