Kaua‘i High state winner in Samsung national competition

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Kaua‘i High students Kylee Viernes-Toyama, second from left, and Kieley Espiritu, second from right, are joined by Samuel Israelsen, left, and Kaden Keep in developing their state-winning electronic application addressing emotions. Missing is Edilyn Marquez.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Kylee Viernes-Toyama and Kieley Espiritu, winners of the Hawai‘i state Samsung competition, talk about their proposal for developing an app addressing emotions Wednesday at the Kaua‘i High tech building.

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i High students Kylee Viernes-Toyama and Kieley Espiritu are in the midst of advancing their project that earned their school the honor of winning the state championship on 10th anniversary of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow challenge.

Viernes-Toyama and Espiritu were among the school’s Science Technology Engineering and Math students, along with teacher-coach Leah Aiwohi, present when the school was presented an Alaka‘ina Foundation grant Wednesday for $1,000 in support of the school’s STEM program.

The grant was presented by Manu Kai, a contractor at the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands.

“We are new members of the team,” said Kaden Keep. “In addition to Kylee and Kieley, we have Samuel Iraelsen and Edilyn Marquez to build the project to the next level in preparation for the national competition. We’re working on developing an app that will deal with emotions.”

Viernes-Toyama and Espiritu said they won the state-level competition after pitching an idea on self-care and mental health. The idea took root, and the duo survived two rounds of the five-round national competition.

They received Samsung products, a computer, and Kaua‘i High received $15,000 in technology for its achievement after the Red Raider team bested a field of 300 schools from around the state.

The school also received a Samsung video kit that the students could use to create and submit a three-minute video that showcases their project development, and how it addresses the issue. The video produced by the students took the second round of competition, where the original field of 300 schools in Hawai‘i was whittled down to 100 qualifiers.

“Samsung is extremely proud of the evolution of the Solve for Tomorrow platform over the past 10 years — fueling students’ passion and curiosity to tackle issues that affect their communities in unexpected and creative ways,” said Ann Woo, senior director of corporate citizenship at Samsung Electronics America.

“Reading the innovative proposals students and teachers have put forth this year exemplifies what we know to be true for every student — that young minds have just as much to teach as they do to learn. Our guiding citizenship vision is ‘Enabling People,’ and we are thrilled to celebrate another year of empowering future innovators to achieve their full potential through STEM learning,” said Woo.

Espiritu said the original idea for their project to address the rising concern for mental health and its impact came about through personal experiences and observations.

“The write-up we did had a lot to do in helping us win,” said Viernes-Toyama. “The eventual goal is baby steps toward getting more professionals to help with young people, especially the teens, with their emotions.”

The next phase of their project involves developing an app to allow a user to punch in an emotion, Espiritu said. Once selected, the app will suggest a variety of positive options the user can utilize to cope with the selected emotion.

This next phase will be submitted via another three-minute video in hopes of advancing to the remaining phases, where the field of 100 will be whittled down to 20 national finalists who will present their projects to a panel of judges.

The national finalists will have their respective schools share in $50,000 in technology and classroom materials.

There will also be five grand-prize, national-winner schools which will receive in total $100,000 in technology and classroom materials, and participate in a trip to Washington, D.C., to present their projects to members of Congress.


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