HARTSELLE — A group of Hartselle students who identified vaping as a problem in schools and designed a “vape detector” have been selected to participate in the national Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest.

The program, which encourages students in grades 6-12 to solve real-world issues in their community by using classroom skills in science, technology, engineering and math, selected eight projects as finalists from 2,000 entries statewide.

“This competition has been around several years, but this is the first time we have participated in it,” teacher Elisa Harris said.

Teams from Florence High and Sheffield High were also among the eight winners from Alabama.

Hartselle will compete against 300 schools nationwide for the opportunity to receive $15,000 in technology and supplies. Five grand prize winners will be announced in the spring and travel to Washington, D.C., to present their projects to their members of Congress.

“Since launching the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest a decade ago, we’ve seen students tackle some of the biggest issues facing their generation and this year is no different,” Samsung spokeswoman Ann Woo said in a written statement.

She said past winning teams have developed projects involving everything from suicide prevention to single-use plastic alternatives.

Eighth grade students Ashton Evans, Emily Doshier, Sophia Hampton, Andrew Simmons and Laura Halverson, in Hartselle's Engineering Academy, were on the team that designed the vape detection device.

Evans said they brainstormed for about two weeks on several community issues before deciding to tackle vaping because they were aware of students using electronic cigarettes in bathrooms at school.

The team designed a small, flexible detection device they said would help administrators detect smoke from vaping through an app.

Between 2011 and 2018, the number of high school teens using e-cigarettes, increased from 220,000 or 1.5% to just over 3 million or 20.8%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Harris said students have until Dec. 4 to fine tune their presentation for the next level, which will narrow the list to 100.

“We’re excited about the challenge,” she said.

— deangelo@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2469. Twitter @DD_Deangelo.

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