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Lafayette Students Named State Finalists for Samsung STEM Competition

Lafayette Students Named State Finalists for Samsung STEM Competition

A project proposal by Lafayette High seniors Ben Dimmic and Jonathan Sair was chosen as one of 300 state finalists in the 14th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow national STEM competition.

Dimmic and Sair are among seven teams from the state of Missouri that have been named state finalists in the competition. The distinction comes with a $2,500 Samsung technology prize package and the opportunity to compete to become one of 50 state winners from around the United States. Three national winners are named at the conclusion of the competition.

“It’s exciting. We had kind of forgotten about it, and we got called out of class and they had a big poster to congratulate us," Dimmic said. “We didn’t know how many schools were competing, so we didn’t really know our chances. Now we can try to compete nationally.”

Solve for Tomorrow is a nationwide competition designed to empower students in grades 6-12 to leverage the power of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to create innovative solutions addressing critical issues in their local communities. The competition encourages students to apply problem-based learning principles, environmental stewardship and entrepreneurship to address some of society’s most pressing challenges. It also promotes active, hands-on learning, making STEM more tangible and showcasing its real-world applications.

Two Rockwood students smile while holding a sign congratulating them for being named state finalists in a STEM competition.

Dimmic and Sair have been honing their project as part of Mark McAllister’s Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Engineering Design and Development class at Lafayette. Their idea is a pedal boat that allows the user to enjoy the exercise and scenery in local waterways while also passively reducing waste.

“It’s designed to provide entertainment to a user and also help the environment by picking up trash while you’re moving through rivers and lakes,” Sair said. “We came across research about trash in waterways and how you can use enjoyment to help pick it up, and we thought we could use a pedal boat – or something eco-friendly – in the water to help with this problem that already exists.”

From this point, Dimmic and Sair are researching, planning out the project and documenting the steps they would take and the materials they would use to create a prototype of the pedal boats.

The two are also using this project as their culminating Capstone presentation for their PLTW class, as the contest criteria and timelines match well with their coursework.

PLTW courses provide transformative learning experiences for students and teachers through courses that cultivate an engaging, hands-on classroom environment in STEM subjects. Nearly 1,800 Rockwood students were enrolled in PLTW courses during the 2022-2023 school year – nearly 1,000 at the high school level and nearly 800 in middle school – and all four district high schools earned PLTW “Distinguished School” honors for the fourth straight year.

“I really enjoy the problem-solving aspect: getting presented with a problem, then getting the opportunity, resources and the teaching to go solve it,” Dimmic said. “You’re trying to work through things that come up and find detailed solutions. That aspect of problem-solving and getting to see and make a solution is big for more.”

Both Dimmic and Sair said they hope to continue studying engineering after graduation. For the time being, though, they’re excited to see how far they can go with their pedal boats.

“This class lets you be on your own going through the process of designing and developing something,” Sair said. “It really exposes you to the process of being a young engineer, and that’s what I like about it.”

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