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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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home : education : school district
December 12, 2019

11/30/2019 7:29:00 AM
Rhinelander High School named a state finalist in national STEM contest

Approximately 100 Rhinelander High School students working on possible solutions to the community's water contamination problem are state finalists in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest.

According to a School District of Rhinelander press release, four classes of about 25 students, led by science teacher Cheryl Esslinger, are designing plans for a portable, inexpensive water filter for reusable cups or filling a jug.

When applying for the contest, Esslinger noticed the first question was: What is a problem in your community? Coincidentally, she had just watched the news about the PFAS found in a Rhinelander well and the spring in Crescent, district officials explained in a press release. The challenge is to use STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in the classroom to solve the problem.

PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, firefighting foam, and products that resist grease, water and oil. PFAS can persist in the environment and the human body for long periods of time, according to the DNR, and recent scientific findings indicate that exposure to certain PFAS may have harmful health effects in people. According to the EPA, exposure to some PFAS substances above certain levels may increase the risk of adverse health effects, such as thyroid disease, low birthweights and cancer.

Samsung has sponsored the contest, which encourages 6th- through 12th-grade students to creatively use STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills to solve a community challenge, for the last 10 years.

From a pool of more than 2,000 entries nationwide, only 300 schools have been selected as a state finalist and Rhinelander High School is one of them.

"Rhinelander High School was chosen based on the creative proposal submitted by Mrs. Cheryl Esslinger to address the PFAS water issue in Rhinelander using STEM learning in her classroom," the release states. "As a Wisconsin State Finalist, Mrs. Esslinger will receive a Samsung tablet for her classroom and has the opportunity to advance through future phases of the contest to win additional prizes. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this 2019-2020 school year, the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest fosters critical thinking and creative problem solving skills among thousands of students across the country."

"Since launching the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest a decade ago, we've seen students tackle some of the biggest issues facing their generation and this year is no different," said Ann Woo, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship at Samsung Electronics America. "From suicide prevention to single use plastic alternatives, teachers and students are stepping up to creatively address these important issues head-on. We're thrilled to congratulate the State Finalists of the 10th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest and look forward to seeing these STEM projects progress in the coming months."

Regardless of whether her students win the next step ($10,000 for technology for her classroom) or the next after that ($100,000 in technology), this challenge has renewed Esslinger's faith in the ingenuity of young people and rejuvenated student involvement in science and engineering, the release states.

To learn more about the STEM project, contact Esslinger at (715) 365-9500 ext. 8125, or essliche@rhinelander.k12.wi.us.





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