Caesar Rodney High School and W. T. Chipman Middle School were selected, along with three other Delaware schools, as state finalists in Samsung's Solve for Tomorrow contest.

Caesar Rodney High School and W. T. Chipman Middle School were selected, along with three other Delaware schools, as state finalists in Samsung's Solve for Tomorrow contest.

The contest tasked schools nationwide with coming up with a project that would benefit their community, while also helping students engage in learning in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

A total of 255 schools were selected from across the nation; each will be awarded two Samsung Galaxy tablets and will be given the opportunity to advance to the next phase of the contest.

The idea that earned W.T. Chipman a spot as a state finalist was a project created by eighth-grade math teacher Michael Greene. Greene worked with his honors geometry class to come up with a system of equations designed to help small businesses maximize their productivity by scheduling their workers in the best way so as to match their sales volume.

"We talked about this and we know a lot of small business owners may not have time to crunch the numbers and come up with a strategy on how to be more productive," Greene said. "We felt this would be helpful to a lot of local small business owners."

Greene's students are not only solving problems, they're also engaging with technology. The eighth graders are using TI84 calculators, Excel software and GeoGebra, a software that combines many math applications into one package to work the system of equations. Students are also becoming more engaged, Greene said.

"The purpose is to promote math education in the classroom and the community," Greene said. "The idea is to promote math education and for students so that they can understand that solving equations is something you will use in the real world and that could help you make better business decisions."

The idea that earned Caesar Rodney High School a spot in the top five came from Chuck Poplos, a special education teacher. Poplos' community project idea was to aid special needs students in their transition into the workforce after they graduate from high school and to focus on hands-on, technical jobs in STEM fields. Poplos created a series of three lessons to teach his students about STEM-based jobs that don't require a college degree. The series will include a lecture from Poplos about STEM-based jobs, a session for students to research such jobs and finally presentations by members of the community that work in technical STEM-based jobs about what it takes to enter their field.

"A lot of my kids haven't had exposure through their education process to STEM subjects," Poplos said. "Sometimes they get discouraged because they don't have the support at home to tell them whether or not they can get involved in a technical field or engineering. Hopefully this will give them an opportunity to see they can be successful in those fields."

The series would also include a field trip to Delaware Technical Community College's Owens campus in Georgetown so that students can tour the facility.

"My ultimate goal is to encourage my students to do better," Poplos said, "to set goals and go after them and to not let stereotypes and personal circumstances stand in the way."

Both schools will now submit plans for their proposed STEM lessons and one school out of the five in Delaware will receive a Samsung technology package, valued at $20,000 and will be selected to move on and compete on a national level, in which the public will vote between Feb. 14 and March 13 for the top 15 schools nationwide.