WMS project examines technology for preventing frostbite

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Spending time outside in the winter can be a lot of fun if you’re on skis, snowshoes or a snowboard, but too much time can be dangerous.

This is the focus of a new Whitefish Middle School project led by Library Media Specialist Dana Carmichael.

Carmichael and WMS were recently named a Montana State Finalist in the 10th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, a nationwide competition that encourages sixth through 12th grade students to use science, technology, engineering and math skills to solve problems in their communities.

For her project, Carmichael will be working with 25 students from the middle school’s two coding classes and the Maker Space club to create an application that determines whether someone is in danger of frostbite and needs to go indoors during cold-weather days.

The students will use Micro:bits, a pocket-sized computer that can be used to create games and applications, Carmichael said, to make a wearable biometric sensor that then sends data they can manipulate.

Carmichael said she got the idea when her son Seth, a sophomore at the University of Montana, tried bringing friends up to ski during last winter’s extreme cold spell.

“Every time he brought them up to the house the mountain closed due to high winds, cold temps. On one of their trips they got to go night skiing on Friday and the mountain closed the next day,” she said. “The whole time we worried and thought, ‘Are they dressed warm enough, are they going to die’ — all those terrible parent thoughts.”

Carmichael will lead her students through the Project Lead the Way design process, which involves collaboration, exploration of an idea, modeling and prototyping, evaluation and explanation. The explanation will take the shape of short, two-minute videos created by students to show what they accomplished.

As a state finalist, Carmichael’s class will receive a Samsung tablet for this and other future projects.

The students are excited to get started, she said. The project will start in the last few weeks of the first semester, after Christmas break.

“The coding classes I introduced it to were really cute because they were asking right away if they could patent their final product and if they could take it to Shark Tank,” she said, laughing. “The Maker Space asked if they could use [other technologies like] Arduino. I think they’re excited.”

Fellow WMS teacher Gary Carmichael, who is also Dana’s husband, was named the Montana winner in 2017 for creating a lesson plan that encourages coding students to look deeper into an EPA Superfund site at the Whitefish railyard.

Samsung gives out roughly $3 million to participating schools across the country as part of the Solve for Tomorrow Contest.

Of the 300 Montana finalists, 100 will be named State Winners — which comes with an award of $15,000-worth of technology and classroom materials. Twenty of those finalists will then be named national finalists, and five schools will wind the grand prize — $100,000 in technology and a trip to Washington D.C. to show off their projects to the U.S. Congress.

For more information, visit www.samsung.com/us/solvefortomorrow/.

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