Teacher Wins $20,000 in Samsung ‘Solve for Tomorrow’ Contest

When Jordan High School teacher Karen Durfee applied to participate in Samsung’s Solve For Tomorrow education contest in September, she was hoping to win about $500, or enough to buy some tablets for her classroom, where she teaches engineering and robotics.

She never imagined she’d win at least $20,000 in technology for her school, and be in the running to win up to $140,000, but on Dec. 5, that’s exactly what happened. Durfee was chosen as the state winner of the Samsung Solve For Tomorrow contest, and she advances to the next round of competition.

“When all of a sudden they say, ‘You just won $20,000,’ I said, whoa, I was going to be kicking my heels for $500, and I never dreamed of winning that amount of money,” Durfee says. “Other teachers here are looking at the (contest) website now to see what they can do for next year. I don’t mind, it’s for the kids, it’s not for me. That’s what we’re here for.”

Three of the five schools chosen as state finalists in the Samsung contest are from Canyons School District: Jordan High School, Butler Middle and Eastmont Middle. Wayne High School in Wayne County and Milford High School in Beaver County were also chosen. Each finalist school will receive two Samsung Galaxy tablets for participating.

As the state winner, Durfee also receives a Samsung laptop, camcorder and software bundle to prepare for the next phase of the competition, which must be completed by Feb. 2, 2014. To that end, Durfee and 11 students who volunteered to participate are meeting after school twice a week for one hour to complete a video of their project.

Durfee was chosen as the state winner for her innovative approach to advancing interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), according to her congratulatory letter signed by David Steel, Samsung Electronics America executive vice president of strategy and corporate communications.

“Your commitment to your students and school as well as to advancing STEM education is evident through the great work you are doing,” Steel said in the letter.

Durfee started looking for grants and monetary awards after Jordan High School principal Tom Sherwood encouraged teachers to do so, pointing out that other schools in the District received money from outside programs.

“There is money out there if you look for it,” Durfee said. “I thought anything is better than nothing. I went online and typed in STEM, and lo and behold, there are many organizations who have money they’d like to give to education if you meet the criteria.”

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