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Ky. students win national contest with device to pick up needles off ground

Published: Apr. 12, 2018 at 3:43 PM EDT
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A middle school class from eastern Kentucky is the winner of a national contest.

It was announced Wednesday that the 8th graders from Ashland Middle School won the grand prize of a $150,000 technology grant from Samsung.

They competed in Samsung's Solve for Tomorrow contest in New York City.

The contest gets groups of students to use science, technology, engineering, arts and math to address a real-world problem they see in their community and come up with a solution.

The students chose the heroin epidemic that is gripping the nation and has roots firmly planted in their region. Among the things they worked on is a prototype for a device that allows the user to pick up needles from a safe distance and lock the needle inside before being disposed of.

It's a device Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader told the class would be very useful for first responders and everyday citizens.

"The whole community could benefit from this," said Rader. "Not just first responders, because people out in the community run in to syringes laying around all the time. This is part of the solution."

"It's really important," said eighth grader Shaela Taylor. "Not just to us but, there are families that have lost people to stuff like this and it's major to do something to help people."

The class previously met with officials with the needle exchange program in Ashland to learn about how their program works and what they do to try to keep used needles off the streets.

They then met with officers with Ashland Police who showed them common areas where needles are usually found.

The class came up with their idea when the school's DARE resource officer told them about the dangers of used needles found with substances on them that can be harmful to the touch.

"You hear on the news occasionally of how this is affecting our community, but we didn't really understand how severe it was until we started digging in to the project and what was going on," said Isaac Campbell, another eighth grader.

A solution at the hand of middle schoolers.

"Some people exclude young people and say they're too young to help out in our community but I think this project just shows that anyone can do anything it doesn't matter your age," said Campbell.

"I'm very excited and proud of this young group of kids that are taking the initiative to work on such a horrible and horrendous problem that we're dealing with," said Rader.

"What we're doing here is really special to us and we're really proud of it," said Taylor. "We are making a difference, because this is really important to everybody and to think, 'Wow eighth graders doing something so special.' I can't believe it!"

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