Lakeside Students Win State Tech Title

A team of three Lakeside Junior High School students is the state winner of the 2023-2024 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition.

“At first, we were a little shocked,” said Sala Jongewaard, who is developing the award-winning See the Sound app with classmates John Martinez and Emily Pozos.

The ninth-graders’ Education Accelerated by Service and Technology project is one of 50 student projects named state winners in the annual competition, according to a Samsung Solve for Tomorrow press release. Each state-winning school received a $12,000 prize package of Samsung products and classroom resources and the opportunity to work with a Samsung employee mentor.

The nationwide Solve for Tomorrow competition challenges U.S. public school students in grades 6-12 to showcase how science, technology, engineering and mathematics education can positively impact communities, according to the Samsung website.

The Lakeside students’ See the Sound project was an ideal fit for the competition, said Jamie Stallings, the students’ EAST and computer science teacher. The EAST program provides students with opportunities to use science and technology to address concerns they’ve identified in their local community.

The students’ See the Sound project is designed to provide the hearing impaired with alerts concerning extreme weather conditions.

The project was inspired by a classmate’s experience during the March 30, 2022, tornado that impacted Springdale and surrounding Northwest Arkansas communities, Pozos said.

“He unfortunately didn't hear any of the sounds or any of the alerts,” she said. “He had to be woken up by his mother.”

Remaining Alert

The See the Sound app communicates with household smart devices via a phone’s Bluetooth to turn on the lights and alert the hearing impaired concerning imminent extreme weather.

The app pulls extreme weather threat information from existing weather and similar apps, Jongewaard said. The household’s smart devices and lamps are subsequently activated through the See the Sound app to provide users with timely extreme weather alerts.

“Whenever there's an alert on everyone else's weather apps, there will also be alerts on ours,” she said.

Stallings said See the Sound has value beyond the hearing impaired, noting he would’ve benefitted from the app during the 2022 tornado as well.

“When the tornado hit, we slept through it,” he said of his family. “So, having a light that turns on feels like a really good solution.”

Stallings said internet and app research haven’t turned up any existing apps that provide extreme weather alerts by activating smart devices as See the Sound does.

App Development

The students began the project in September and currently have a working app they are continuing to fine tune with tools purchased with the initial Solve for Tomorrow prize money, Jongewaard said.

The trio have been taking computer science classes and have purchased professional access to Thunkable, she said, a website for developing custom mobile apps.

Stallings said he’s seen tremendous growth in all three students since beginning the project, which emphasizes the educational value of EAST.

“At the beginning of the year, those three had no idea how to program,” he said. “I don't think they'd ever programmed anything in their life.”

Now, the students are figuring out technicalities like Bluetooth integration for the app, he said.

“I have no idea how to do it, but they're actively working on it,” Stallings said. “EAST has the freedom to give them the time to kind of explore the passion projects.”

Martinez said developing the app has been a rewarding experience.

“I really didn't think we were gonna get this far, but now that we have, I feel really confident about this project,” Martinez said. “I feel like it could actually help a lot of people.”

The Competition

The students are currently creating a three-minute video about their project for the national competition as they continue to develop the app, Stallings said.

Ten schools will be named national finalists and chosen to receive a $50,000 prize package of Samsung products and classroom supplies, as well as a trip to a to-be-determined location to pitch their solution for a chance to be a national winner, according to a Samsung press release. National finalists are also eligible to win an additional $10,000 in technology for the Community Choice award through social media voting and the Samsung Employee Choice Award.

Three national winners will receive a $100,000 prize package, including Samsung products and classroom resources, according to the Samsung website. National finalists will be announced March 26, and final judging for the competition will occur April 29.

“It's a little nerve wracking, especially if we do win,” Jongewaard said of the team potentially traveling to present their project.

This is the second year in a row Lakeside has won first place in the state in the competition, Stallings said. Last year’s award-winning project involved a student-developed flood sensor.

Lakeside wasn’t the only Springdale School represented in the competition, he said, noting a team from Brittany Berry’s Helen Tyson Middle School EAST class also competed at the state level.

The Helen Tyson project was developed by students Alice Collier and Lilly Rugg, who created a virtual reality simulation through which students can virtually share best practices concerning mental health and substance abuse issues, Berry said.

“The thought was that often the information is age appropriate and important, but youth don't relate to adults,” she said. “If they picked the avatar of sorts to learn about the topics, their brain can be more receptive to the information.”

The Helen Tyson EAST program will receive a technology package from Samsung for qualifying for state, Berry said, adding the school received a Chromebook and some tablets for the same recognition last year.

Stallings said he hopes the Lakeside See the Sound team does well at nationals.

“I want them to win, but I want them to finish too,” he said. “What I'm most excited about is, regardless of the competition, the kids have grown, the kids have learned, and they they're solving an actual problem.”

WATCH:  The See the Sound "Now This" Video HERE.

WATCH: Good Day NWA Features the Sea the Sound Team HERE.