Essential reporting in volatile times.

Not a Subscriber yet? Click here to take advantage of All access digital limited time offer $4.99 per month EZ Pay.

Interested in Donating? Click #ISupportLocal for more information on supporting local journalism.


Because of their unique solution to inspire change, Ashland Middle School has been named one of 20 finalists nationwide in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest.

ASHLAND — Ashland Middle School students will present a project they’ve worked on all year to judges virtually next week as one of 20 finalists in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest.

The students have a chance to win $100,000 in Samsung technology should they be named one of five national winners in the competition, designed to inspire students to make an impact in their communities using science, technology, engineering and math.

And although the class at Ashland Middle is disappointed that they won’t be traveling to New York City to pitch their projects as originally planned, instructor John Leistner said it hasn’t stopped students from working hard on the finishing touches.

“We’re pretty excited about how everything is going,” Leistner said. “We’ve moved along quite a lot and have made some improvements to our device.”

The class has been working to improve the exit protocol for mobility-impaired children in the event of an emergency at school.

They have created a device to help those students exit safely from a second-story building as well as an app to better locate them.

Leistner said the class has also collaborated with the Ashland Fire Department, as the project aims to help keep firefighters from having to enter a burning building or lessen their time at risk, as well.

“They helped us with some recommendations, and we’ve made those improvements. We painted the device a brighter color so it’s easy to find in an emergency situation,” he said, among other assistance like adding handles to the front for more control.

The class has also partnered with the Ashland Foundation for Children with Disabilities to design “emergency kits” for students who may struggle with mental health issues like anxiety or even those with epilepsy.

“Our prototype device is to get students out of the building in multi-level structures, and all schools don’t have that,” Leistner said. “But these hidden problems that aren’t as visible — you can’t look at someone and understand that they might have epilepsy — that’s in every school, so it’s from there that we are going to keep expanding.”

The kits include weighted blankets, noise-canceling headphones and glasses that shield heavy or flashing lights, and are now placed strategically around the school.

Leistner said he hopes to share the idea with the district and other facilities in the state.

On Wednesday, May 27, the students will have three minutes to pitch their idea to a panel of judges, who will then have seven minutes to ask questions, through an online video call.

Ashland Middle was also a finalist in the Samsung contest in 2018 and took home the grand-prize national title.

Follow reporter Hanna Pennington via Twitter @hpennHD.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.