Saco Middle School’s 7th-grade students are announced as Maine State winners in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest. Pictured from left are: front row, Aislyn Cassidy, Aaron Garland, Juniper L’Italien, Tucker Vincent; and back row Spencer Pahigian, Natalie Chaplin, Abigail Cashin, teacher Lindsay Girard, Amara Doe, Charlotte Ramsey; and missing from the photo is Eleanor Studtman. Courtesy photo

SACO — Numerous Saco Middle School students care about the environment. For a group of SMS seventh-graders their concern and hard work has paid off as the team is the Maine State winner in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. The project they are working on is to create 100% biodegradable, sustainable, and refillable markers, according to a SMS press release. Outshining their high-school competitors from across the state, SMS secured a $12,000 Samsung prize package, a video kit to assist in the national competition, and a designated Samsung employee mentor. SMS teacher Lindsay Girard’s seventh-grade students will now advance on to the national competition as the sole middle school among the six state finalists.

Samsung Solve for Tomorrow is a national competition challenging students in grades six through 12 to use their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills to address real-world issues in their communities and affect positive social change. SMS’s winning project, conceived and executed by the inventive minds of seventh-grade students with guidance from Girard, revolves around creating 100% biodegradable, sustainable, and refillable markers. This innovative solution aims to combat the environmental impact of the 400 million markers discarded annually in landfills throughout the United States. The team’s commitment to utilizing locally sourced materials and an efficient production process underscores their dedication to reducing the carbon footprint.

“This win is a testament to the students’ hard work, creativity, and commitment to making a difference,” said Girard, Extended Academics ELA and Math teacher at SMS. “This project was their choice, and I am so impressed with their passion and willingness to work on this concept outside of classroom time. We look forward to representing Maine at the national level, appreciate all the support from Samsung, and encourage the community to follow our social media channels to watch our student’s progress in developing STEM-based solutions for real-world issues.”

As part of the journey to the national competition, Saco Middle School students are crafting a video to highlight the project’s impact. The school invites community participation in the video, seeking insights from local figures on the importance of environmental stewardship and the role of STEM education in driving sustainable solutions.

Seventh-grader Abbie Cashin expressed her enthusiasm, saying, “Being named state winners, especially as the only middle school among the finalists, was so exciting. Our class came up with this project because we see so many markers being thrown out, and we care about our environment. As we develop the biodegradable marker, we hope to use the Japanese Knotweed plant so that our community may live ‘Knot-Free’.”

The Top 10 National Finalists will be chosen by March 26, at which time the Community Choice voting will take place for the Top 3 National Winners to be announced on April 29. To watch the SMS students’ progress and vote in April, follow the Facebook pages @SacoMiddleSchool and @SacoSchools, and the Instagram page @SacoSchools. To learn more about the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition, search hashtags #SamsungSolve, #SFT_US_2024, or #EnablingPeople.

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