Samsung teams with John Legend, donates $1 million worth of tech to schools

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At the Time Warner building in Manhattan this morning, Samsung announced the winner of its Samsung “Solve for Tomorrow” contest, which is giving away more than $1 million in technology prizes to promote science and math. Finalists converged from schools all around the country for the announcement, even students from a remote village in Alaska. R&B star John Legend was on hand to host the event, which was important enough that Samsung’s CEO showed up for a few pictures.

The contest

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Last fall, students and teachers across the country were asked how they are creatively using Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) outside the classroom to better the environment, with a promised grand prize of $155,000 in technology (seen above) to the school with the best uses. A few months ago, Samsung gave the 50 semi-finalists video cameras to record what they were doing. Today, the top five finalists’ videos were shown and the winner was chosen. (Watch all of the videos here.)

  • Kokhanok School in Kokhanok, Alaska is a fly-in village of 300 people and used trees infected with Bark Beetles (an epidemic there) to power their homes.
  • Patchogue Medford High School in Medford, New York studied water in their community to see if the town’s new water plant reduced the alarming number of nitrates and phosphates in the water that was killing the local shellfish.
  • South Shore Charter Public School in Norwell, Massachusetts made a “veggie van” that runs on vegetable oil to help reduce their own emissions.
  • Wheeling High School in Wheeling, Illinois pretty much proved that global warming is real by calculating the emissions of cars in their town. John Legend was impressed by these guys.
  • Winner:  West Salem High School in Salem, Oregon realized that hydro-electric energy from the dams is killing the local salmon, so they studied wind- and solar-powered alternatives. The students actually built their own wind turbines and mini solar cars.
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West Salem High School took home the grand prize of $155,000 in technology products from Samsung, Microsoft, DirecTV, and the Adobe Foundation. There were no real losers though; all finalists took home a clean $80,000 in technology products as well. The winner was chosen partially by online voting (40 percent), but mostly by Samsung.

Solve for Tomorrow is part of Samsung’s Hope for Children campaign, which has raised more than $10 million in technology and other prizes for more than 300 hundreds schools in the past seven years.

John Legend: Good at looking good

The star of the event, of course, was John Legend. We were unable to catch an interview with him, but did capture a few pictures of the man of the hour, who was here to co-promote his “Show Me Campaign,” which is attempting to use education and technology to break the cycle of poverty. Legend recently wrote a song for the documentary Waiting for Superman – -the film that prompted Mark Zuckerberg to donate $100 million of his money to help schools try out an innovative new curriculum.

However, more interesting than his appearance, was how impossible it was to take a bad picture of John Legend. My poor photography skills caught almost everyone at their worst, but Legend evaded my incompetence without even knowing it. Check it out.

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Here is a brief clip of Legend’s speech. The audio is low.

Stray shots

Here are a few more shots of the event, which was held at the Samsung Experience in the Time Warner Center in NYC. The Experience is not a store, but has demos of most major Samsung products available for use by anyone.

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The facility was nice, though none of the company’s upcoming tablets or phones were on display. However, the new thin-bezel LED TVs were quite impressive.

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Samsung’s CEO stopped by to say hello as well.

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Good ideas, good prizes

As events like this usually are, the main goal here was to make Samsung look good. However, the company did take a lot more time than it had to letting the students and teachers speak. It was great to see how excited children from Alaska were to play with all of the gadgets and say hello to John Legend. I wish I had gotten that kind of opportunity when I was younger. All in all, everyone here seemed deserving of the many new projectors, laptops, computer monitors, and printers they will receive. Hope for Children may benefit Samsung’s image, but today it benefited the children more.

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