Science Start: Lewistown Junior High named state winner in science contest
Lewistown Junior High science teachers Steve Paulson and Suzie Flentie are the state winners in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest - Photo by Christopher McConnell
Article courtesy of the Lewistown NewsArgus, written by Christopher McConnell and published December 17, 2014.
Lewistown Junior High 7th grade life science teacher Steve Paulson's decades old Big Spring Creek Watershed science project is half-way to Washington, D.C.
On Friday morning Paulson received a call from Samsung Electronics America Vice-President David Steel personally congratulating him on being chosen as Montana's winner in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. Steel had heard about the spam folder "incident" (Paulson's notification as a state finalist was hiding in the spam folder of his email) and wanted to make sure Paulson knew he was chosen as Montana's winner.
As the state winner, the Lewistown Junior High will now receive more than $20,000 in STEM technology in addition to the Galaxy tablets (Samsung's version of an iPad), software and educational materials it received for being a state finalist.
Paulson started the Big Spring Creek project two decades ago and had focused mostly on biological aspects and data collection. He wanted to expand the scope of the project and collaborated with Suzie Flentie, 8th grade physical science teacher and former Montana state "technology educator of the year" recipient. The alliance gives the project more depth.
"It's a biological-technological project. I bring the biology and Suzie brings the technology, along with her expertise in GIS and ARC Mapping," Paulson said.
Flentie's science students have been involved in GIS for 12 years and worked on several major projects including mapping noxious weeds for BLM and the flooding from 2011.
Paulson hopes the technology award will be used, in part, to increase the Internet bandwidth in the junior high.
A slow connection makes it difficult for the students to conduct research in the short period of time they have in class.
"When we have many students using the wireless notebooks, the Internet slows to a crawl," he said.
Flentie thinks the award will allow her science students to remain on the cutting edge of STEM education.
"Funding is always short and we will use this to keep up and move forward," Flentie said.
In the next phase of the' contest Paulson and Flentie will create a three minute video outlining the project, due the end of January, and submit it to the national judging panel. Fifteen national finalists 'will be chosen out of the 51 remaining projects-one from each state and the District of Columbia. If the Big Spring Creek Watershed project is chosen as one the 15, Paulson and Flentie will go to Washington D.C. to present the project to the judges. Five national winners will be selected out of this process, with the public choosing one during an online voting period.
Paulson and Flentie have a conference call with Samsung and contest officials on Jan. 6 to discuss the award and their progress. Lewistown Junior High Principal Tim Majerus will also sit in on the call.
The 15 national finalists will be named on Feb. 15.
** Note - for more information take this link to learn more about the 2015 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest.
Award Letter from Samsung
Congratulations! You have been named a State Winner in the 2015 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. Your entry was chosen for its innovative approach to advancing interest in STEM among your students as well as making an impact in your community.
Since you have been chosen as a State Winner, you have already earned a minimum of $20,000 in Samsung technology for your school.
You will now go on to represent your state in the national competition where we ask that you create a 2 – 3 minute video that brings your lesson plan to life. For your efforts, you will have the opportunity to earn a larger technology package of $35,000 or $120,000 and a chance to come and present your story with other competing schools in March. If you are chosen as one of our five National Winners, you will also be invited to attend an awards ceremony in Washington D.C.
Your commitment to your students and school as well as to advancing STEM education is evident through the great work that you are doing. Once again, congratulations on being named a State Winner!
David Steel, Executive Vice President, Strategy & Corporate Communications
Samsung Electronics America