Students in Jomel Villamil's AP Environmental Science Class at Franklin High School are eligible to win a $110,000 reward for their recent study of storm water pollution in the Los Angeles River, and they are calling on the community's support to earn that prize.
Franklin was one of 15 schools across the entire United States to be chosen as a finalist in Samsung's Solve for Tomorrow competition. More than 1,600 schools entered the contest.
According to Villamil, the students' two-minute video documenting their L.A. River study has already won Franklin $40,000 in technology and supplies from Samsung. The five schools to receive the most votes for their video on Samsung's contest page will win a $110,000 technology package from Samsung and be invited to attend an awards ceremony in Washington D.C.
Franklin is currently holding on to the fifth spot with 457 votes.
Villamil told Patch that Franklin students frequently participate in projects that find real world applications for their Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum, so entering the Samsung competition was a non-brainer.
"When I heard of this Samsung contest, I thought to myself that we have been doing this (applying STEM in improving our environment) in our curriculum, so why not submit our project for consideration and see how it goes!" he said "To my surprise, we got this far!"
In total, the project required about 120 hours of work from the students, including "outside lab work plus additional classroom hours spent for data discussions and analysis," Villamil said.
Win or lose, Villamil said his students learned some valuable lessons applying what they learn in the classroom to the world outside of it.
"The project showed how classroom curriculum can connect with the real-world. That the world is an even bigger classroom. Students got to explore their environment (some don't even know that the concrete flood channel is the LA River)," Villamil said. "Students learned various lab skills as they performed various water quality tests. They also carefully collected data, applied critical thinking skills as they analyzed their data, made inferences and came to a conclusion. Moreover, the students came up with creative, workable solutions. Needless to say, they worked collaboratively and learned to work as a team. And yes, everyone is now an environmental sustainability advocate."