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West High students compete for major award with tech to connect with lawmakers

Posted at 6:51 AM, Mar 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-21 08:51:46-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A team of five students from West High School is competing for a major accolade.

The team was named the Utah state winner in Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow competition.

The students are moving on to compete against teams from the other 49 states for the right to be one of three national winners.

The Solve for Tomorrow competition asks public middle and high school students to us S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to develop solutions to issues found in their local communities.

The team from West H.S. is developing a portal they believe will help constituents easily connect with lawmakers.

“It was a really interesting idea that we were talking about and we realized this was an opportunity to get started on working on it,” said Diya Oommen, a junior at West H.S.

“Removing as many barriers to comfortability for people in reaching out to their representatives is super important,” added Cash Mendenhall. “So they can do it in a way that feels best to them and easiest to them.”

The team combines students with interests in political science, computer programming and software engineering.

“More and more we are siloed into a particular area,” said Cash Mendenhall, a junior at West H.S. “It’s been really cool to break out of my traditional field and make contact with people doing awesome stuff in S.T.E.M. and software innovation that I otherwise wouldn't have been put in a project with.”

As the state winner, the students are now tasked with producing a short video to pitch their idea to the competition’s judges.

“It really is an opportunity for us to hear from students. What's on their mind,” said Ann Woo, the director of corporate citizenship for Samsung Electronics America. “What we wanted to do is tap into the energy and passion that young people have to change the world. They know it’s up to them.”

As the state winner, West H.S. won a prize package including $12,000 worth of electronics and school supplies.

The three national winners will earn an award of $100,000 worth of technology for their school.

The winners will be announced in late spring.