WILTON, Iowa–While many scientists focus on identifying and treating human diseases, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, several students at Wilton Junior-Senior High School have put a lot of effort into identifying a different kind of illness. As their entry in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest, Hayley Madlock, Anna Marine, and Taylor Schult, and other agriculture students have made the plans for devices that can identify ill pigs and help farmers treat them quickly and effectively. The fourth consecutive year Wilton students have entered this contest, their agriculture teacher, Gary Burns, has high hopes that they may move past the semifinal round and take the honor of placing in the top ten and possibly placing as top finishers.
The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest challenges middle and high school students to use science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, principals to create inventions that would benefit their communities. This year, students chose to design a portable infrared thermometer that could automatically detect a feverish pig, partnered with a second device that could mark the pig with non-toxic paint. This would allow farmers to easily check their herd for illness and swiftly treat affected animals.
In the first round of the contest, students submitted a written application detailing their invention and how they believed it could benefit their community. In the semifinals, students will take their project a step farther, actually building, testing, and perfecting their creation and documenting each step of the process with videos. The students will have until April 4 to complete and submit their work.
This year, Burns believes that the students have what it takes to enter the final round of competition. Finalists receive $65,000 for their school. This year, the students have already won $15,000 to put towards supplies for their school. In past years, when Wilton students made the semifinals with projects geared towards grain bin safety, equipment safety, and animal identification and safety, they earned enough prize money to purchase new science equipment, landscaping tools, an interactive whiteboard, and a new livestock scale for FFA.
Regardless of how this year’s students place, Burns still feels entering the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest has many benefits for participants. “The opportunity opens their eyes to the many different uses of STEM in their everyday life,” he explained: “It also allows them to see that there are many other uses for current technology – they just need to think of ways to make it work. The results of their work have led to industry making changes in products on the market.”
With just over two months to complete their project, Burns’ students have gotten to work in earnest on creating their swine health monitoring system. Their creativity and use of technology may just bring them national fame and reshape how farmers think about caring for their animals.