Three girls smile for a photo

Kate Schindler, Jayca Justice, and Sophie Risher of Elkhorn Crossing School (Scott County) were the Kentucky winners of the Samsung STEM Solve for Tomorrow competition this year. Submitted photo

Fidget button jewelry, a project three juniors at Elkhorn Crossing School (Scott County) – Kate Schindler, Jayca Justice, and Sophie Risher – presented during the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM State Competition, was created to help students relieve their anxiety.

Samsung Solve for Tomorrow is a nationwide competition designed to empower students in grades 6–12 to leverage the power of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to create innovative solutions addressing critical issues in their local communities. The issue Justice said the Elkhorn Crossing students chose to focus on was mental health.

“We’ve noticed in our friends and ourselves and just everyone around us that mental health is more prominent than it has been in the past,” she said. “It’s definitely a more talked about issue now and we just really want it to be even more recognized.”

Competing among 300 teams from public middle and high schools, the finalists are required to submit a detailed lesson plan outlining how students would use STEM to address an important community issue.

“We had gone through trial and error with many different variations, and we wanted to create something a little bit different than what’s available now, but still very much related to us and our problems specifically,” said Schindler.

Elkhorn Crossing School, a school with a special focus on career and technical education, was selected as the Kentucky winner.

“All three of us have kind of struggled with, like, attention problems or mental health where we just often have trouble focusing on work or we all have, like, fidgety behaviors and can’t release the stress in those kinds of situations,” said Schindler.

The students say their idea is more than just a piece of jewelry they can fidget with. Risher said they’ve put buttons along the fidget bracelets which they hope to connect to a circuit board, creating an app to go along with it. When the person wearing the bracelet is anxious throughout the day, they can press the buttons which will send a signal to the app and will track those moments.

“We hope that all of this will help us with tracking how many times you’re anxious or what time you’re most anxious throughout the day; tracking stress and triggers,” said Risher.

Data collected on the app can be forwarded to a therapist or a doctor to assess and address.

Samsung Solve for Tomorrow was launched in 2010 to boost interest, proficiency and diversity in STEM.

Out of the 50 state winners, 10 schools were selected as national finalists. At the end of April, those students will be able to present their projects in Washington, D.C. for a chance to win $100,000 for their school.

Elkhorn Crossing School received $12,000 for being the state winner. That money will go towards technology within their school and although the project did not make it to nationals, the students plan to continue working on this project and creating these bracelets for their peers and community members.

“We were like hanging and we gave a couple of our friends the bracelets for a few minutes, and they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really cool and it’s actually helpful,’” said Schindler. “So, we just recently bought a whole bunch more materials and we’ve been making more of them and selling them.”

“It may not be completely done or is (not) being used right now in the way that we specifically intended it to be, but people enjoy the idea. In some ways, we have carried it out more than what it needed to be outside of the competition,” said Risher.