A group of Ashland Middle School students took home first place in the national Samsung “Solve for Tomorrow” competition Wednesday.
The group of 18 students tackled a large-scale problem on a national stage, with half of the group traveling to the final pitch event in New York City, NY.
Witnessing the opiod epidemic tear apart their community and the tri-state area, the group created a device that first responders can use to safely pick up needles.
“It won’t only affect Ashland, it’ll most likely affect the whole nation,” said Drew Kiser, an eighth grader at Ashland Middle School.
Their idea stood out among thousands in the nationwide competition and advanced to the finals. Then on Wednesday, the students were announced as the grand prize winners on Good Morning America.
Meanwhile, the rest of Ashland cheered them on at home, with 8th graders even watching the announcement in the cafeteria.
“When they announced our name, I just felt chills in my stomach, just knowing that something we did actually mattered and that we went so far with it,” said Kiser. “Everyone was just going insane.”
The first place prize will award $150,000 in technology for the school, but combined with other awards they’ve won throughout the competition, the principal estimates that they’ll receive up to $230,000 total.
“This is a real-world problem that is right here in our neighborhoods,” said David Greene, the principal of Ashland Middle School. “Just in our tri-state area, we know what the epidemic has done, so for our kids to embrace not just a real-world problem, but one that affects daily living around here, is just incredible.”
The students are already thinking about the next step, working with Shawnee State University to use their tools to help mass-produce the product.
“Instead of taking our time to 3-D print it, they make casts and stuff that you can use and put over it so that it would take less time,” said Gracie Madden, a seventh grader at Ashland Middle School.
Principal Greene says first responders in the area have already reached out to the school, with hopes of implementing the product.
“People are really looking to this as something that can be utilized, for sure in our local community, but after today, who knows how big it gets,” said Greene.