Fairfield science team wins $100K for school in national contest

A Fairfield High School science class has won top honors in a national science contest, earning $100,000 in learning tech for their Butler County school. The team won first prize in the national Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition designing an app to alert distracted parents of an abandoned baby in their car. From left to right, front row: Megan Barth, Jack Cowan 2nd Row: Kali Bell, Lindsay Wilson, Bryce Torbeck, Rockey Bell, Sarah Dance 3rd Row: Jada Boyer, Manju Katel , Haley Durbin, Julianne Wilkerson, Alex Dorst, Dylan Luttrell, Darwin Russell 4th Row Jacob Moore (Provided Photo/Journal-News)
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A Fairfield High School science class has won top honors in a national science contest, earning $100,000 in learning tech for their Butler County school. The team won first prize in the national Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition designing an app to alert distracted parents of an abandoned baby in their car. From left to right, front row: Megan Barth, Jack Cowan 2nd Row: Kali Bell, Lindsay Wilson, Bryce Torbeck, Rockey Bell, Sarah Dance 3rd Row: Jada Boyer, Manju Katel , Haley Durbin, Julianne Wilkerson, Alex Dorst, Dylan Luttrell, Darwin Russell 4th Row Jacob Moore (Provided Photo/Journal-News)

A group of teenage scientists from Fairfield High School have won top honors in a national inventors’ contest bringing home the $100,000 prize.

The Butler County teens invented a phone app that could someday save the lives of infants forgotten by parents in the backseat of dangerously hot vehicles.

The top three finishers in the national Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest win $100,000 to use for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related equipment in the classroom.

Top-10 finalists in the last two years of the contest – which earns $50,000 of science tech – the Fairfield teens have now tallied $150,000 worth of lab and other equipment for their high school science department.

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“We are so proud of the work that these students have put into this project and extremely excited to see them be recognized,” said Fairfield High School Principal Bill Rice.

Incidents around the country of sometimes deadly, inadvertent abandonment of infants strapped into safety seats in the back of vehicles during hot weather prompted the teens to invent a safety alert app to help distracted parents and prevent pediatric heatstroke.

“This project is a great representation of the experiential course work that our students are doing where a real-world problem is confronted and through their ingenuity, problem-solving skills, and teamwork, they come up with real-world solutions,” said Rice.

“The added bonus for such a competition is in the prize. The $100,000 in technology will be used by all students in the science department so that each will have an opportunity to interact with technology while studying present-day, science-related issues,” he said.

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Fairfield advanced placement physics teacher Kurt Etter said the teens’ invention “utilized a pressure sensor button that was in constant communication with the driver’s cell phone.”

“A notification is sent to the driver’s cell phone and if two conditions are met simultaneously. Condition one is the button is still depressed due to the weight a child still in their car. Condition two is the driver’s cell phone is more than 20 feet away from the car,” said Etter.

Etter said earning the top national honor required his students “to come up with a problem, creatively develop a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) solution, submit a written application, research the problem, present their case to Samsung senior management, write computer code, develop a video and answer questions in an interview setting.”

Gina Gentry-Fletcher, spokeswoman for the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools, called the national honor “a very big deal for our district.”

“It speaks volumes about STEM-related courses that we offer, and the teacher leaders who are engaging students with these kinds of opportunities,” she said.

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