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Ashland Middle School STEM class advances in national contest for third year in a row

(WSAZ)
Published: Jan. 14, 2020 at 10:29 PM EST
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A classroom full of brainstormers and problem solvers are working together to make a difference for their school, and potentially even save lives.

For the third year in a row, the STEM class at Ashland Middle School advanced as the state finalist in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest. The 2018 class won the entire contest with their idea to help first responders responding to the opioid epidemic.

This year’s project is called “No Child Left Behind.” The idea is to address what they feel is a flawed protocol for when it comes to removing students with physical disabilities during an emergency in their multi-level school.

“It’s an amazing feeling because you're helping a lot of people,” said eighth-grader Emily Aliff. “This could potentially one day help somebody in case of an emergency. It’s crazy to think about just how we're making a really big change in the world.”

As of now, the protocol is for students with limited mobility to shelter in place until first responders can get to the scene and rescue them if they are on a higher floor and can’t use the elevator to get out. The students say in a crisis, like a fire, every second is crucial.

“I don't think people stop and think about it until something is brought to their attention,” said seventh-grader Anna Bocook.

To work on a solution that keeps student safety in the front lines, the class is designing an app that tracks mobility-impaired students and identifies their location at all times. If there were an emergency, the teachers responsible for the students at that time will use the app to verify their location and communicate the student’s safe removal out of the building.

The class is also creating a physical prototype that can facilitate quick extraction of these students without having to wait for first responders.

“It makes you feel good that you're able to help them to do something that they weren't able to do before and that you could be saving their life.”

The students are now preparing for the next round of the competition in February. They say they’re excited to continue the legacy of the classes from the last two years.

“Knowing that every other student before us have made it on, and knowing we've also done it, is a good feeling,” said eighth-grader Juan Aguilar.

So far, the class has won $15,000 in technology for winning the state round. If they win the whole contest, they win more than $100,000.

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