Princeton High School students win national prize in Samsung competition

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Princeton High School was named one of three national winners in the 14th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition earning a $100,000 prize package for its efforts.

The Princeton High School students Mayda Jiguan, Sofia Son and Hayah Mian won the award for developing an AI (Artificial Intelligence)-powered robotic stuffed animal that helped preserve some of the many languages that are in danger of extinction.

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More than half of the 6,000 languages spoken by Indigenous populations may become extinct within the next couple of decades, the students said.

One of those languages is Mam, which is a Mayan language spoken by some Princeton High School students. It is widely spoken in the western highlands of Mexico and Guatemala.

In a video presentation, the students said that the disappearance of an Indigenous language also means that an entire system of knowledge and environmental knowledge accumulated over the centuries will be gone.

“Vital Indigenous voices risk being silenced forever,” one student said in the video.

Through recorded and translated phrases, the students are striving to make Che’w – the robotic stuffed animal – to be fully conversational. They are doing this by helping to build an AI Mam translator and speech recognizer. Those resources are not available online.

The Princeton High School team was one of 10 national finalist schools in the competition. They pitched their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) project to a panel of judges in Washington, D.C., on April 29.

The team was chosen as one of three national winners the next day at the Samsung Solutions Center. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), U.S. Rep. Jay Obernolfe (R- Calif.) and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) participated in the ceremony.

The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition challenges students in grades 6-12 to create positive changes in their communities by using STEM skills to solve pressing local issues.

Samsung Solve for Tomorrow opens students’ eyes to real and relatable local issues. It challenges them to use STEM in innovative ways to address those problems, said Ann Woo, head of Corporate Citizenship for Samsung Electronics America.

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