Holly Grove middle-schoolers win $110,000 national prize for safety invention

Friday, April 5, 2019
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Holly Grove celebrates big win with pep rally.

HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. (WTVD) -- A group of Wake County middle-schoolers has returned from New York City with the top prize in a contest for young inventors.

The Holly Grove Middle School students won $110,000 in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest for creating a device that is designed to improve student safety at bus stops.

The solar-powered sign flashes when a school bus comes within 400 feet of the bus stop, giving drivers notice of exactly when and where a bus will stop.

The Holly Springs sixth-graders went to work on their invention after one of their classmates was nearly hit by a car that was illegally passing a stopped school bus.

"I'm so proud of all of our smart and dedicated students who have been a part of this team," said teacher Debra Schelin who led the group. "I want to thank Samsung Solve for Tomorrow for the opportunity for these students to challenge themselves and be a part of something that could ultimately save children's lives."

The students received help in designing a prototype from NC Department of Transportation engineers, Holly Springs town leaders, local law enforcement, and WCPSS Transportation administrators.

Thursday afternoon, the school held a pep rally in the gym to celebrate the team's achievements, which included appearances by Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears, Wake County Superintendent Cathy Moore, and state Superintendent Mark Johnson.

"It's so amazing that when I was young, I used to think that oh, I'll probably change the world when I'm an adult or something like that. But no, I'm already in sixth grade and I'm already changing the world," said Kaley Davis, a sixth-grader who was one of three students to present the project in New York City.

Schelin said it was a testimony to the work the students put in.

"The kids have put in so much time. We have an enrichment time every day they worked through. They came and ate lunch with me almost every day. And we stayed after school a lot. Some Saturday's as well," Schelin said. "They did a phenomenal job. They were a crowd favorite. they were very funny, and very smart, and very thorough. The judges loved them and the crowd did as well."

Kaley said they saw a need and worked to address it.

"We have figured out that a lot of people -- they don't know where the bus stop is," Kaley said. "So this is so that way they can know where the bus stop is, they can know where it's going to stop, and it can help open up their eyes.

The team will also be celebrated at a luncheon in Washington, D.C., in May where the students will present their project to members of Congress.