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Hoover High School Engineering Academy Students Win $100,000 Award in National STEM Contest

HHS Engineering Academy Students photo

(Hoover, AL) - On Friday, May 10, Hoover High School (HHS) recognized its Engineering Academy students who achieved a remarkable milestone by winning a $100,000 award for the school in the 2023-2024 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest. The students' groundbreaking project, an automatic door opener aimed at addressing accessibility challenges for people with disabilities, garnered national recognition as one of the top three projects in the nation. 

Students in the senior course of the Engineering Academy focus on applying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) principles from several engineering disciplines that they learned in previous years to a Capstone design project. Student teams work on solving real-life problems for clients outside the school. Friday’s recognition program included a demonstration of the students’ automatic door opener and a tour of the engineering academy prototyping lab full of other projects.

HHS Principal Jennifer Hogan expressed great pride in the students' achievement, stating, "Our engineering students' dedication, innovation, and commitment to making a positive impact exemplify the spirit of Hoover High School. This accomplishment not only reflects the hard work of our students but also underscores the excellence of Hoover High School in the field of STEM education."

The award-winning project idea came about after the students noticed that current semi-autonomous devices for doors are very expensive, require damaging installation, cannot effectively be used on interior doors, and have limited opening options. These factors limit the accessibility of disabled people with mobility and limb dexterity restrictions, especially for those who rent. The student group decided to solve this problem by creating a non-invasive and inexpensive alternative to automatic door openers. Under the invaluable guidance of Engineering Academy instructor Dr. Martin Ledvina, the students entered their project into the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest. After being selected as state finalists for Alabama, HHS’s team ultimately became one of the three national winners, securing $100,000 worth of Samsung equipment and classroom supplies. 

Dr. Ledvina said, “I do not think words can describe my exhilaration over our students’ success at this renowned STEM contest. Winning alongside such brand names as Princeton (NJ) and Brandywine (MD) proves that our students and our engineering program at Hoover High are on the same level as the best STEM programs nationwide. Yet, it was not only their technical skills that led to this triumph. It was the drive, perseverance, time management, focus, and countless overtime hours that resulted in this amazing achievement of our students.”

The students' project integrated various STEM principles, including research, community impact analysis, client interviews, Computer-Aided Design modeling, prototyping, mechanical calculations, coding, and testing. Their solution can potentially benefit approximately 2.7 million wheelchair users in the USA and offers a more sustainable and inclusive option compared to existing solutions.

Engineering Academy senior Bec Jones said, “It is extremely rewarding to see our work come to a close with such a high honor. All the hours we poured into every facet of our project were worthwhile! It is not often that groups from Alabama win national STEM competitions. In fact, we are the first team from Alabama (at least since 2015) to win the Solve for Tomorrow competition! Not only are we representing our school, but we are also representing the entire state.”

Jones is delighted that her team won the award, which will tremendously benefit the Engineering Academy program and her school.

“I cannot begin to imagine all the improvements the $100,000 grand prize will bring to the school. It is still mind-boggling that my group has achieved this and earned such a high honor,” added Jones. 

Alexander Hayes, another senior from the Engineering Academy, emphasized the significance of the win. Hayes said, “Making it this far in a national competition has been very exciting for my team and the entire Engineering Academy. This is a huge win for Hoover and shows that Alabama can win STEM competitions like this. The prize money will help our Engineering Department grow even more by giving students the opportunity to learn and enjoy STEM at an early age.”

The achievement of Hoover High School's Engineering Academy students in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest demonstrates the school's commitment to fostering innovation, empathy, and excellence in STEM education. The impact of the students' project extends far beyond their community in Hoover, offering a sustainable and inclusive solution that has the potential to transform lives nationwide. By promoting inclusion and reducing costs for individuals with disabilities, the students' project underscores the transformative power of STEM education.


About Hoover City Schools

Hoover City Schools (HCS) is a top-rated public school district committed to providing quality education and fostering academic excellence for each student across the district. With a focus on student success and achievement, HCS strives to create a safe and caring environment that nurtures learning and prepares students for future challenges. For more information or to join our team, visit