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FARMINGTON — The Ojo Amarillo Elementary School sixth-grade class that proposed a science project focusing on aquaponics remains in contention for a top spot in a national STEM competition.

The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest is designed to boost interest and skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics among middle and high school students.

The contest consists of three rounds before the national winners from five schools are selected in April.

Ojo Amarillo, Mescalero Apache High School and Taos Academy are the schools representing New Mexico in the second round of competition. The field narrows to 20 national finalists in March for the third round.

The three schools are considered state winners in the competition and each school will receive $15,000 in technology and classroom materials.

Teacher Adriane Jopek said her class was notified about their selection on Dec. 20 but could not release any information publicly until Samsung made its announcement on Jan. 8.

They were named state finalists in the competition in November.

"I think that it opens up possibilities that, maybe, they didn't realize exist," Jopek said about the latest success.

The achievement reinforces the idea that her students are contenders for the next stages of competition, she added.

"This was something we saw as an idea and didn't think too much about it. It was something we could try to strive for and now there's the huge possibility in making this a whole lot larger than what we had intended," Jopek said.

Over the next two months, each winning class will develop prototypes and submit a three-minute video that showcases their project and how it addresses the issue highlighted in their application.

Ann Woo, senior director of corporate citizenship at Samsung Electronics America, said the company is proud of the contest's platform over the last decade, including fueling students' curiosity to tackle issues that affect their communities.

"Our guiding citizenship vision is 'Enabling People,' and we are thrilled to celebrate another year of empowering future innovators to achieve their full potential through STEM learning," Woo said in a Samsung press release.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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