Tulare Union dials up $15K in Samsung contest

Students’ artificial intelligence project wins community choice award for Samsung’s ‘Solve for Tomorrow’ contest

TULARE – Seven Tulare Union High School students brought home the dough after winning a community choice award for Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest, pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence (AI) technology in automobiles for their STEM-based project.

Six of the seven students are in Tulare Union High School science teacher Eric York’s STEM class, where he covers the principles of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and explores aspects like AI, 3d printing, machine design and engineering design process. York said distance learning didn’t stop the team from collaborating, who used zoom to build a physical prototype of their AI device for automobiles capable of learning from pictures to enhance driver safety.

“The way that artificial intelligence works is basically you train it with a series of images, and then it can recognize those images with a certain confidence level,” York said. “Based on that confidence level, in our case, it alerts the driver. So when the car is driving and this device sees a stop sign, it will emit a tone indicating there’s a stop sign.”

York said he used Donors Choose—a public charity that let’s donors fund specific classroom projects—to find additional funds for equipment and certification courses for the students, where Frank’s Automotive of Tulare funded about $500 for AI and programming kits.

“I gave [our team lead] the resources and put the resources for training in their hands, and he put hours into researching and learning how to do this,” York said. “Almost the entire process was done remotely. When we got to the point where we returned to hybrid [learning,] a couple of the students worked together to do the filming.”

The team was awarded $15,000 in funding for qualifying as one of 75 semi-finalists after submitting a video showcasing their project and its potential to advance through future phases of the contest. Qualifying as a national finalist tacked on another $65,000 in technology and classroom materials, and an invitation from Samsung to participate in a virtual pitch event where they will present their project to a panel of judges.

The Tulare Union team pitched their AI project April 28, where they were entered to be one of three teams to win the grand prize of $130,000. Though they didn’t get selected for the grand prize, the team bagged an extra $15,000 for Tulare Union after being voted as the community choice award winners—viewers of the team’s video were able to vote on Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow web site—to be used for classroom technology and supplies.

York said half of their winnings are to be used on Samsung supplies. He said they’re looking at getting interactive whiteboards—internet-connected digital boards and pens that can use slides and pictures and be drawn on simultaneously—and laptops for students to use in Tulare Union’s STEM and robotics programs. York said the other half of the winnings are to be used for classroom supplies at their discretion, materials that will help build the STEM and robotics programs.

“This was a great experience for the students, especially in light of COVID and everything that has happened this year with distanced learning and the isolation that students have faced,” York said. “This was a great way to kind of end the year for them—our team consisted of seven seniors. They really bonded together through this experience, created a phenomenal product and just showed the heart of our tribe here at Tulare Union.”

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