Samsung Solve for Tomorrow social media voting is now open! Visit our website to see the list of finalists and their corresponding school hashtags to include in your votes on Instagram and Twitter.

When their teacher asked them to take a hard look at issues affecting people in their community, one group of students in Missouri noticed that some of their peers with disabilities had trouble sitting upright at their desks. The students got to work with compressed cardboard, cutting and shaping various components to find which ones would create new furniture for the classroom that would make their friends most comfortable.

This is the essence of Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest, our flagship education program, which challenges students to tap into their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills to create innovative solutions to real problems they see in their communities. The students in Missouri were recently named one of the 15 National Finalists by Samsung Electronics America (SEA).

As one of the largest tech companies in the world, made up of scientists, engineers and designers, we know it is important to support kids in their quest for brighter futures. This is why we created Solve for Tomorrow, which will award $2 million in technology to participating schools across the country this year alone. But beyond the cameras, tablets and other products that are donated, the contest challenges the kids to grow as students and as neighbors.

This year, Samsung had about 1,000 more applicants than last year. More than 4,100 school groups submitted ideas for how they might be able to use STEM to address an issue affecting their communities. From a pool of State Winners (representing all 50 states and Washington, D.C.) that were selected to develop their project and submit a short video of how it works, the 15 finalists were selected. This year’s projects include a smartwatch app for pedestrian safety, enhanced window screens for reducing pollution and tiny homes for homeless teens.

The 15 National Finalists have been invited to present their projects in front of a live panel of judges on March 15 in New York City. For the first time ever, we have created a way for the public to weigh in on social media. Everyone is encouraged to watch the submission videos and post their favorite school’s given hashtag, along with #SamsungSolve, on Instagram or Twitter. Voting will be open until April 1, 2016 and the five National Winners will be announced the following week.

The future of technology rests in the hands of today’s students. In fact, according to a recent Samsung-sponsored GFK survey, 90 percent of U.S. teachers say modern technology in the classroom is important for students’ success. For decades, we’ve seen technology drive high-quality jobs that involve some knowledge in STEM. However, recent studies show a gap between these jobs – that will continue to grow in the future – and students’ education today. At the moment, 20 percent of all U.S. jobs – approximately 26 million positions – require knowledge in one STEM field, according to the National Commission of Mathematics and Sciences for the Twenty-first Century. And, we can expect to see STEM jobs grow 17 percent by 2018. This further supports the need for early STEM education, so future leaders can attain and achieve in these positions.

Join us in celebrating the 15 National Finalists as they enter the final phase of this year’s competition. No matter the outcome, we are proud of the accomplishments they have made embracing STEM, and also getting a better understanding of what it means to help others.

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Ann Woo

Ann Woo is the director of corporate citizenship for Samsung Electronics in North America. In her role she manages the company’s philanthropic programs, partnerships and commitments in education and healthcare to organizations, schools and communities throughout the U.S. She has been at Samsung for nearly 8 years and previously held positions at IBM.

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