CALDWELL — When Casey Boothby, a teacher at Vision Charter School, heard about Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest, he thought it would be a fun opportunity for his seventh grade STEM class to think of solutions for real-world issues.

In December, Boothby learned not only had two of his students won for the state of Idaho, but they had earned the Caldwell school’s STEM program $15,000 in Samsung technology.

Jolie Martin and Derek Rodriguez, both 12, were the minds behind the winning project, which beat five other Idaho teams. The pair proposed the idea of a desk that provides “easy reconfiguration of a classroom by allowing the desk to fold down and into the floor.” It also will contain various safety features to protect students during a severe weather event, such as a hurricane and tornado, or an active-shooter situation.

“When I found out (we won), I was speechless for a few minutes,” Martin said.

“It was one of the best feelings,” Rodriguez added. “It was awesome.”

Now Martin and Rodriguez are competing against student teams across the country. Martin said their next step is to complete a three-minute video detailing their project development and how it addresses student safety in hopes of advancing to the contest’s remaining stages.

If selected, the pair will travel to New York with 19 other schools in the spring for a live-pitch event, increasing the $15,000 award to $50,000. From those 20, the competition then is narrowed to five grand-prize winners, who each earn $100,000 for their school’s STEM program. There also is one community choice winner, which is determined by popular vote and eligible for $10,000 based on the video submission.

“Kids have the opportunity to do something that could potentially change the lives of people, change the lives of communities (and) change the lives of schools. It’s mind-blowing to think at Vision we can have that kind of reach,” Boothby said. “We’re not just thinking about what’s happening here at our school or what’s happening in Caldwell, we’re thinking globally.”

Currently, Martin and Rodriguez are in the design phase, focusing on the overall look and what type of materials they’ll use. They also are working to get a provisional patent for the desk, which they call S.W.O.T. — Safety, Weather, Organization and Teachers.

Boothby said he’s incredibly proud of the two, who have put in countless hours, before and after school, toward the project. He believes this has allowed them to gain real life experience and the chance to showcase their ideas.

“It’s been really fun to watch them see that success,” Boothby said. “Kids these days have great ideas on how to solve problems. … You never know, you may see this product on shelves one day. And how cool is that?”

Olivia Heersink is the Canyon County public safety reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at oheersink@idahopress.com. Follow her on Twitter @heersinkolivia.

Olivia Heersink is the Canyon County public safety reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at oheersink@idahopress.com.

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