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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

5 N.J. girls are finalists in $2M national science contest


Written by Laura Herzog

Five Jersey City girls and their science teacher are on a cleaning spree.

They're cleaning up at a national contest run by Samsung — winning their school tens of thousands of dollars worth of technology— because contest officials are so impressed by how the girls are trying to clean up their school's air quality.

The 13- and 14-year-old girls — Lailany Maldanado, Ivonne Ovalles, Sidney Kensley, Gianna Quijada, and Nancy Do — all are students at Dr. Michael Conti School P.S. 5 school. They are working with their teacher Albert Padilla on their "Samsung Solve for Tomorrow" Contest submissions.

Already, they were named national state winners and won $20,000 in technology, and they just were named national finalists and won $20,000 more, officials said.

There were 4,100 applicants nationwide, and the Jersey City group is among just 15 national finalists, all in public schools across the country, Samsung officials said. They are the the only New Jersey winners.

"We can do anything that boys can do. I think it's important that girls start getting into (STEM)," Maldanado, 14, told NJ Advance Media after she and her friends, who are voluntarily working on the project outside class, won the first $20,000.

To win in the Samsung contest, kids must solve a problem using science, math, technology, and engineering.

The girls are trying to reduce carbon emissions by creating air filters and raising community awareness of the negative health effects of idling, especially given the prevalence of asthma in their school, with a "No Idling" campaign, they explained to NJ Advance Media in December.

"We are really proud of the girls' efforts with our community initiative, and are looking forward to moving on as finalists in the contest," said Padilla, a Jersey City-raised teacher at P.S. 5, who has worked their for 12 years and has a bachelor's and master's in biology.

"Their ingenuity and hard work is continuing to pay off for themselves, our school and out city," he added.



The girls have also presented their project at the Liberty Science Center science symposium and it has been reviewed by local stakeholders including Jersey City board member Joel Torres and Superintendent Marcia Lyles, Padilla said.

The kids won't see what kind of new technology they have won for their school until after the competition is over, the teacher added.

Padilla has worked with students on several science projects in the city school to improve the local environment, including a storm-water management project involving Rutgers University.

Coming next for the Samsung competition, on March 15, Padilla and the students will present their project live to a panel of judges at the brand new Samsung 837 building in New York City, officials said. The panel will pick three grand prize winners, Samsung employees will pick a fourth winner, and the public will vote on the fifth winner through social media, Samsung officials said.

In all, five winners will win $120,000 in technology, Samsung officials said.

Social media voting (one vote per person per day) is open beginning 12 a.m. (ET) on March 1 until 11:59 p.m. April 1.

Those voting for P.S. 5 should post or tweet using the hashtags "#SamsungSolvePS5" and "#SamsungSolve" on Instagram and/or Twitter, officials said.




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