Imagine a classroom where students not only learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), but also apply these concepts to solve real-world problems in their communities. That's exactly what the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition is all about! Aimed at U.S. public school students in grades 6–12, this nationwide challenge is igniting the sparks of innovation in the minds of young thinkers. Every year, Samsung raises the stakes by awarding over $2 million in prizes to the most innovative teams. But it's not just about the rewards; it's about nurturing young minds to become problem solvers and changemakers.
To support this innovative learning, teachers have galvanized their students to address pressing issues in their own backyards. Now, enter the Teacher Academy—a week-long immersive experience that transforms educators into innovation ambassadors. Samsung and MindSpark have collaborated for the last five years to train more than 175 educators across the nation in the art of Problem Based Learning (PBL). It isn’t just about theory; these teachers engaged in the PBL model and created their own solutions to problems that are relevant in almost any community. They have developed apps that combat youth homelessness in California, created non-profits like ReGame, Inc. that fight e-Waste in North Carolina, and developed strategies to boost food security in New York through urban agriculture. These educators have been on the front lines of change.
2022 Teacher Academy participants, photo taken outside the Samsung office in NJ
This year, the Teacher Academy brought together 38 middle and high school teachers from all over the country for a week of discovery, growth, and camaraderie right in MindSpark’s backyard, Denver, Colorado.
The teachers got to roll up their sleeves and dive into the world of PBL, a hands-on, collaborative teaching method that employs localized problems to engage students and encourage the development of real-world solutions. It's like turning a classroom into a hub of innovation.
Educators and facilitators from the 2019 Teacher Academy in San Jose, CA
During the program, participants embarked on a field experience at Denver Water, where they designed inventive solutions to optimize water resources for Colorado and mitigate the pressing drought conditions affecting the region and neighboring states.
Additionally, visits to Colorado State University’s SPUR campus opened the doors to a world of possibilities. Laboratories, veterinary clinics, hydroponic gardens—it was like a playground for the curious minds of educators. Discussions revolved around tapping into community resources for richer learning experiences and forging partnerships that extended beyond the classroom.
Throughout the week, educators dove into a treasure trove of topics that aligned with the PBL model. From design thinking to entrepreneurship, safeguarding intellectual property, and navigating the world of artificial intelligence, it became a crash course in becoming educational innovators.
Just ask Saul Nunez, a High School Computer Science Teacher from El Paso, who shared, "Your program has been a transformative experience! Thanks to your inspirational guidance, I am now motivated to embark on another remarkable 17-year journey in my teaching career. Such invaluable support is truly deserving for every educator, enabling them to thrive and make a lasting impact on their students' lives."
This year’s (2023) Teacher Academy cohort, photo taken at CSU Spur campus
At MindSpark Learning, we firmly believe that teachers are the architects of a brighter future. Our Teacher Academy partnership with Samsung underscores our commitment to empowering educators with the tools they need to foster critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity in students. By investing in our teachers, we invest in a better tomorrow.