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Detroit charter school selected as semi-finalist in $2M STEM competition

Students pitched idea to develop an app addressing homelessness, abandoned homes

DETROIT – A charter school in southwest Detroit is getting some national attention after being named a semi-finalist in the $2 million Samsung Solve For Tomorrow STEM competition.

The Hope of Detroit Academy is the only school in Michigan to make it to the semi-finals and will receive $15,000.

“I started bawling uncontrollably because I was so happy,” teacher Allie Langwald said of her initial reaction when she heard the news. “This is the biggest thing I’ve ever applied for, the biggest thing my school’s ever done and I don’t think people are going to understand how much this means to my kids.”

“We’re just a small charter school but we have big dreams, big hopes,” she added.

READ: Metro Detroit students serve others to honor legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The objective was for students to develop an idea using STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math -- to solve a problem in their community. The kids got to work and identified homelessness as the biggest issue where they live.

“Using their STEM skills, they wanted to build an app. This app would target abandoned houses, vacant fields and high areas of levels of trash in our community. They wanted to get all that cleaned up by using the app, identify those areas and then take it to the mayor,” Langwald said.

The students’ idea was developed even further in their submission. The money will go to good use and their teacher couldn’t be prouder.

“Fifteen-thousand dollars is a lot. That can do a lot for our school,” Langwald said. “If you have a dream out there or if you have an idea that you think can solve a real-world problem, you really need to go for it and push for it!”

There will be 10 national finalists. Seven of the schools will receive $65,000, and the final three schools will receive the grand prize of $130,000.


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