Dorothy Dalgliesh students look to make a difference

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Dorothy Dalgliesh School students film an introduction to their video submission for the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Challenge.

PICTURE BUTTE – It’s a technology-driven contest with a technology-themed prize package. Mitchell Van Dyk, however, sees the potential for much bigger rewards from the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Challenge.

The Dorothy Dalgliesh School teacher and his students are working on a video submission which could see them earn $20,000 worth of technology. The goal of the contest is to demonstrate how science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) can be applied to help improve their local community.

Van Dyk sees technology as a means to an end, and not an end in itself. In this case, it’s a character-building tool to benefit the larger community.

Whether they win or lose, he hopes his Grade 6 students see that they can make a difference, adding it’s important schools not only produce good students but also children who grow up to be good parents, spouses, co-workers and employers.

“Ideally, character and leadership doesn’t just stay in this school,” says Van Dyk. “The point is that it will expand and go throughout the whole community and start a snowball effect of kids who are more kind, who are more caring, more honest, more respectful, more mature and more independent.”

The school’s technology liaison hopes the project will also help students grasp the fact that a lot of job opportunities in the future will be STEM-based. The stronger foundation they have in those ideas now, the better off they will be moving forward.

The first stage of the challenge was to submit an application outlining each school’s proposed project. Van Dyk’s submission spoke to a growing disparity between the have and have-nots in the community, especially when it comes to technological resources and opportunities.

“I basically wrote that if we had an opportunity to win this grant, we could do things that could kind of level the playing field in terms of the technology these kids have access to, whether that would be running an after-school coding club, an after-school stop-motion photography club, or a one-to-one Chromebook kind of deal for some of the older students in the school,” he says.

The submission saw Palliser’s early learning to Grade 6 school in Picture Butte named one of 150 regional finalists across the country. That recognition also brought with it a Samsung package including a smart phone, tablet, virtual reality set and a 360-degree camera to shoot the video portion of the contest.

His students were “super excited” about the prizes won to date, although Van Dyk says they were a little disappointed that the four big winners won’t get to enjoy their $20,000-prize package until next school year, and this group will have moved on to high school by then.

“It’s student-driven so I am going to kind of leave it in the kids’ hands and just facilitate,” he says of the video submission. “We have some really bright students and they have some really neat ideas.”