Some of Fairfield High School’s Samsung contest team (sitting left to right): Katarina Putnick, leader, project administration team; Alex Quedens, leader, software team; Jack Biondo, leader, hardware team; and standing from left to right are Megan Barth, Bryce Behr, Ryan Brown, Jared Cusick, Jackson Cowan, Michael Ryan. The team won top honors in Ohio for their science project and now are competing for a national title and $100,000 in STEM equipment.

‘Operation Thaw’ app that would help any car owner earns Fairfield students spot in national competition

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

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The local teens’ project, dubbed “Operation Thaw,” required the students to solve a community problem using STEM concepts. Their idea is to defrost the windshield of a car without starting it and contributing to polluting the environment.

Instead, the car’s heater will be started remotely using a phone app they have developed.

They submitted a working prototype and video to Samsung on Feb. 15 after working with an assigned Samsung mentor and finished in first place in Ohio, said Fairfield AP Physics teacher in Kurt Etter.

The class won technological equipment for placing in the top five in the state. The students are now in line to receive additional technology valued at up to $50,000 and a trip to Washington D.C., depending on how far the group advances.

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“Currently we are the state winner. The next step is 10 schools are picked to make pitch event for ideas in New York City at Samsung’s headquarters,” Etter said.

“These students are interested in STEM careers and we excited to apply classroom knowledge to the real world,” he said.

“The school will receive technology for the classroom of at least $20,000, and $100,000 if we win the contest. Most of the team are seniors, so they will benefit more from the experience and be able to put the experience on their resume,” said Etter. “Samsung does offer internships to college students, and some of the internships are reserved for contest alums, so potential for them later in life.”

Fairfield senior and team leader Katarina Putnick said the experience for the 15 members of the team is already valuable regardless of how they eventually finish in the national competition.

“This journey has taught us what it means to think like an engineer,” Putnick said.

“It has challenged us to not only solve our problems along the way, but to find the most effective and efficient solution overall. Not only have we been pushed academically, but we have learned how to work productively in a group outside of the classroom. This experience has helped us develop knowledge and skills that make us competitive applicants for scholarships, internships, and job positions.”

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