LMS students near top of state in STEM

LMS students near top of state in Samsung STEM competition
Posted on 12/06/2018

What started as 15 seventh graders at Lynden Middle School challenging themselves to work on a Samsung competition project has turned into something far more as the group was selected as one of 250 nationwide finalists in the competition and the only middle school group of the five Washington finalists.

As part of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, which challenges students in grades six through 12 to apply STEM skills to find a creative solution to real-world issues in their community, teacher Kristine Nugent-Ohls’ group of 15 students meeting weekly on Fridays has turned a fun September idea into a purely competitive drive to achieve the next level of status by the end of December.

The Samsung contest’s deadline for the next round of answers, presentations and concepts comes due Dec. 10, a deadline the local seventh graders are working toward with vigor. Success past Dec. 10 would mean a Washington win (beating out the other four all high school teams) and moving forward as the top team in the state and representing the state as one of the nation’s final 50 teams.

“This has been a challenge for us,” says student Gabriel Jongema. “Even if we fail, we want to keep going with the project.”

While remaining vague on the details of their project — this is a competition, after all, with rewards of $20,000 toward prototyping the project — the students selected river pollution as the problem to solve, doing so by creating a device to detect and alert people to pollution.

“We are researching a lot,” says Mikalah Seward. “There are lots of deadlines, but it is exciting and something fun to do.”

The group, a highly capable mix of students, chose to take on this project and met weekly when it started. But once they were selected to move forward, the intensity has really shot up. “There is no grade attached to this, it is all volunteer,” says Nugent-Ohls. “What is really cool is this is all student driven. It is all motivated by them and ran by them. They are a motivated group of individuals.”

Sure, the competition is nice, but as Daneil Mrak says, giving them something challenging to work on plays a part too. Plus, as Jongema says, it would be nice to make a difference in the community.

The group has already won $600 for supplies to help prototype concepts, resulting in a “really difficult” endeavor of shopping and configuring parts, says Cooper Graddon.

As the only middle school team of the five in the state vying for Washington’s top position and the only top-50 spot afforded Washington, the Lynden Middle School group sees themselves as underdogs. They’ll know the outcome of the next round on Dec. 22 and see just how much work lies ahead of them.

The team includes: Jared McCrory, Mya Vanderyacht, Ella Moormeier, Daniel Mrak, Alex Osborn, Brady Elsner, Grace Furdyk, Mikalah Seward, Jesse Stewart, Grady Dietrich, Gabriel Jongsma, Cooper Graddon and Weston VanDalen.