Future-focused ākonga STEAM ahead with national challenge

Issue: Volume 102, Number 11

Posted: 24 August 2023
Reference #: 1HAbbu

Solving tomorrow’s problems, today. Ākonga across the motu are leaning into cross-curriculum learning in new ways through a nationwide challenge.

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Samsung Solve for Tomorrow 2022 winners, Eva Malez and Htet Waiyan, after receiving their prizes at last year’s awards ceremony.

Enthused and engaged learners from Howick College have excelled at problem solving, with a win in a nationwide competition last year – and they’re going all out to build on their success in this year’s Samsung Solve for Tomorrow challenge.

Aimed at providing richness of learning across subjects, sparking innovation and forward thinking, Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow competition asks students in Years 5-10 to develop solutions to existing problems, ‘Empowering Kiwi kids to change the world for good using STEAM’.

With a wide scope of potential issues to address, ākonga at Howick College have been guided by textiles teacher Nikki Metcalfe to turn their ingenuity-fuelled inventions into reality.

“The aim was to create a product that resolves a current issue in the community. Students looked at what areas they were interested in and were encouraged to take a human-centred approach to their research – putting the person at the centre of their problem-solving ideas.”

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These images showcase a wearable arts project at Howick College.

Teaching collaboration

Project-based learning was integrated into the curriculum, with Year 9 students extending their knowledge and skills across Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Maths,, and collaboration proving one of the most vital skills, says Nikki.

“The students had to work in groups and learn how to collaborate. It’s not always easy for young teenagers to work together effectively!

“They quickly learned how some people step up and lead in a group situation and they discovered the different ways people communicate their thoughts and feelings.”

Producing last year’s national winner in the competition, Howick has set a high bar as this year’s groups immerse themselves in the design stage. In 2022, one of Nikki’s student groups took out the win with a non-invasive device to check blood sugar levels for diabetics.

“A Year 9 student had this concept they brought to the competition, which solved a real, medical issue that impacts so many people living with diabetes. Realising that we are able to measure levels of ketones through a breathalyser, she and her group combined that technology to create a device that was able to test blood sugar levels without the need for invasive needles.

“We thought this was a phenomenal invention; an incredible solution to a very real problem affecting many people, not just here but around the world.”

Since winning last year’s challenge, the students are continuing to fine-tune their invention.

“It still has some honing to do. One of the students learned coding and electronics to make this idea she had for a device, a reality. I’m surprised a medical company hasn’t snapped it up – it really could be a massive game changer with some more refining and development.”

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These images showcase a wearable arts project at Howick College.


Nationwide, the competition attracted entries including kitchen utensils that are safer for people with disabilities to use, a school cycling programme encouraging young people to bike instead of drive to school, and a tool to help children not drop their teddies at night.

The competition is open to students in Years 5–10 to solve an issue in their community, using Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Maths.

One of the school’s innovation subject stream leads, Nikki outlined the areas of the curriculum covered by her students during the project.

“Science was involved in terms of the data gathered and used in the making of some of the products. Students had to integrate technology, deciding which components were needed to take their product from design to build. Engineering and electronics were considered in how different components related to each other to make their idea work.

“English was also a part of the process, as the students needed to carry out presentations and communicate their ideas.

“In terms of the arts, they had to consider how to make their product look good – they realised the role aesthetics can play in the success of a product. And maths was involved in coding, which then tied back to technology.”

Nikki says students also extended their learning in social studies, ethics, and consumerism.

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Samsung Solve for Tomorrow 2021 co-winner Drew Kenny receiving her award from judges Julie Baker and Dr Siouxsie Wiles.

The competition

Led by Samsung, and delivered in partnership with Museum of Transport and Technology Auckland (MOTAT) and Technology Education New Zealand (TENZ), the competition awards up to $20,000 in cash prizes and Samsung technology.

The programme has been designed to align with New Zealand’s National Education and Learning Priorities (NELP) and to be inclusive to all ākonga in Years 5–10.

Nikki has found her students respond well to competition entry.

“I love it when students enter competitions because it really motivates them to do well. When I heard about this Samsung Solve for Tomorrow, I thought why not use it as a goal and a way to encourage students to put all their effort in. Teenagers have come up with so many brilliant inventions and solutions to problems, because they don’t second guess themselves, and they’re full of ideas.

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Samsung Solve for Tomorrow 2022 runners-up from Mt Richmond Special school with Dr Siouxsie Wiles.

“The learning these students have experienced through engaging in this challenge has been so rich and varied – it really has been phenomenal.”

Associate Professor Dr Siouxsie Wiles and scientist/researcher Dr Joel Rindelaub are among the competition’s judges for 2023, alongside MOTAT’s education lead Julie Baker, and deputy chair of TENZ, Sarah Washbrooke.

Julie says in three years, they’ve seen this competition really grow and mature.

“It was great to see students practising the design thinking process last year. There was a huge improvement in solutions from the first time we saw their plans to the final entries they submitted. By developing problem-solving skills now, students will be equipped with the tools they need for their upcoming careers.”

Information for kaiako

There are plenty of opportunities for teachers and students to receive additional support to strengthen entries to the competition this year, says Julie.

Advice for Year 5-10 teachers:

  • Design thinking process: Teachers can also download a series of step-by-step worksheets developed by TENZ to help entrants work through the design thinking process and make their entries the best they can be.
  • Science Fair: If students have already submitted a Science Fair project, its super easy and fast to adapt this into a Samsung Solve for Tomorrow submission. It’s important to check the project meets the judging criteria.
  • Webinars: MOTAT and TENZ are hosting interactive webinars for each step of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow entry process, designed for teachers
    and parents.

Teachers can find additional resources on the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow website(external link). Final entries need to be submitted by 4 September 2023.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 10:40 am, 24 August 2023

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