Legend students reach finals in national STEM contest

Hunter Ball, Jimmy O'Hare lead charge in Samsung competition

Posted 12/21/18

Thanks to a pair of Legend High School EDGE students, the school is in the running for a national STEM-based competition for community problem solving. Hunter Ball and Jimmy O'Hare, both juniors in …

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Legend students reach finals in national STEM contest

Hunter Ball, Jimmy O'Hare lead charge in Samsung competition

Posted

Thanks to a pair of Legend High School EDGE students, the school is in the running for a national STEM-based competition for community problem solving.

Hunter Ball and Jimmy O'Hare, both juniors in Legend's EDGE program, an acronym for explore, discover, grow and empower, are leading the charge in the school's bid for the Samsung Solve For Tomorrow contest. Legend is one of five Colorado schools, among 250 across the country, that have been named finalists for the contest's grand prize of $100,000 in classroom technology and supplies. State winners will receive $20,000 and the top 10 national finalists will receive $50,000. Each state finalist won a Samsung tablet for their classroom.

To qualify, students are asked to pitch an innovative, STEM-based idea to solve a problem within their community. The EDGE program at Legend is a program designed to incorporate interdisciplinary learning to help students discover and embolden their passions.

“We try to focus as much as possible on fixing issues and finding what are some problems in the community we can face and solve,” Ball said. “Anyone can create a game or a fun entertainment app, the problem is: 'Can you create an app that solves a problem effecitively?'”

Ball and O'Hare, both competitive in the Technology Student Association, became finalists for their pitch for a software program that would break down the language barrier in the classroom and beyond.

“What we're trying to do is, we're trying to develop some sort of both web-based or (Google) Play Store-based application that will be used in many schools throughout this state, and maybe even the country,” O'Hare said.

The idea came to Ball and O'Hare after talking with their teacher, Katie Manzanares, an EDGE teacher who shared her experience with the difficulties of teaching in a classroom with an array of first languages. Manzanares said she used to use Google Translate to get her instruction through to her students, but thought there must have been an easier way.

“I basically taught via Google Translate for an entire year because I had students who had first languages that I had never even heard of,” Manzanares said.

Google can translate more than 100 languages, but the application can be difficult to use in the classroom and is often inaccurate. Ball and O'Hare hope to refine that type of technology into a more reliable program that can be used for education — and can translate a wide variety of languages in real time. The two also have hopes to incorporate voice-to-text technology.

The three are still researching local schools that would be best to test the software's prototype. The results for each state finalist will be announced Jan. 3.

Ball and O'Hare are still in the beginning stages of their project, and the full completion of the software could take months before a prototype is developed. Still, the two have big hopes for their project. Winning the contest, or even coming out on top in the state, could propel the two into broadening their idea for more practical, daily uses like for law enforcement or personal use.

To Ball and O'Hare, finding a problem to solve in the community is what makes this project worthwhile.

“If there's a problem in your community, as a part of that community you should feel obligated — if you can help, you should help,” Ball said. “If you don't help, who else will?”

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