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Pleasant Hills Middle School teacher a finalist in 'Solve for Tomorrow' competition

| Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

Jennifer Kassimer, a seventh-grade teacher at Pleasant Hills Middle School, was named a state finalist in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, a program that encourages students to solve real-world problems in their community using classroom skills in science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Kassimer's students came up with an idea for a frame that can be retrofitted onto an existing bus seat and keep their belongings from sliding around.

“I held a brainstorming session with my students,” Kassimer said. “I kept the initial question vague — ‘What are some of the safety concerns you have in our community?' Student responses included concerns about local parks, availability of crosswalks at highly traveled locations, bus safety, litter, air pollution testing and driving.”

During the discussions, the topic of bus safety kept popping up, she said.

“The students thought the buses were unsafe because they are often asked to sit three in a seat,” Kassimer said. “When that occurs, it is difficult to put their belongings in the seat on their laps. The belongings end up strewn in the middle aisle or stick out, making it hard to move in the center walkway when exiting.”

Kassimer and her students are now working on an activity plan that outlines how they hope to execute the project.

“Currently, we use the Engineering Design Process in our Applied Engineering and Technology class for seventh-grade students,” she said. “I am following that procedure to guide the students as they work on the project.”

If Kassimer and her class are named one of 51 state winners later this month, then they will be asked to submit a video of their project in action and will be eligible to receive a $25,000 Samsung technology package.

“It's not really part of my class,” Kassimer said. “I am doing it as a way to earn extra technology for our school, and to provide students with a real-world example of how we can solve a community problem using STEAM. Kids are so much more invested when they see a tangible reason for learning something.”

Suzanne Elliott is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at selliott@tribweb.com or 412-871-2346.

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