November 14, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 45

Haines School advances in tech contest

When Haines High computer teacher Sam McPhetres received an email from Samsung soliciting applications for the “Solve for Tomorrow” contest three weeks ago, he assumed it was junk.

Still, he had some time on his hands, so he took 10 minutes to fill out the application detailing science teacher Mark Fontenot’s ongoing alternative energy program. Now, Haines High has been named one of the five finalists in Alaska.

“This is basically a fluke,” McPhetres said. “I looked at it and thought, ‘What the heck, I’ll just throw our high school in because Mark Fontenot has been doing some incredible things.’”

By being named a finalist – along with Z. John Williams Memorial, Akiuk Memorial School, Dzantik’i Heeni and Romig Middle School – Haines High has won two Galaxy tablets (similar to iPads) and a chance to vie with the other four Alaskan schools for $20,000 worth of technology.

Fontenot’s power systems engineering class is currently exploring the possibility of harnessing wind energy in Haines, and was also responsible for the installation of the solar panels on top of the school that power the LED sign.

“Our high school science program is so cool and the things they do there are so dynamite. It’s cool to have that recognized,” McPhetres said.

The contest was created in 2010 to drive interest in science, technology, engineering and math across the country.

More than 2,000 applications were submitted, and 255 state finalists -- five from each state -- will submit a full lesson plan for the second phase of the contest. Each of the 51 state winners (including Washington, D.C.) will receive $20,000 and a chance to compete for one of 15 national finalist spots and $35,000.

McPhetres is currently working on the second phase of the contest, including making a video.

“If $20,000 comes our way, I’m sure we can find a way to efficiently spend it,” he said.