Gering High School won the state competition for the 2017-2018 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Education Contest.

Justin Reinmuth, the Gering High School teacher leading the team of students, said, “Winning the state competition two years running has been a great experience for the students at Gering. They’ve really embraced the project-based learning model, and love the technology we won last year to accomplish the various design problems presented in the class.”

With last year’s winnings, more than $150,000 from the national competition and the $25,000 as state champion the school purchased new technology and equipment.

“With all that, we got this brand new, state of the art equipment,” Reinmuth said. “Bluetooth (computers with) curved screens, noise cancelling headphones and virtual reality goggles. We also bought the Chrome books for the ninth grade Freshman Academy.”

This is the second year Gering has participated in the competition. Last year, Gering’s team was in the top 10 in the country with a drone project. The team developed a drone-powered spraying system that precisely targets weeds and eliminates the need to blanket spray large fields.

This year, 41 students are working on a three-stage filter system that will clean micro plastics out of gray water from businesses and homes.

Merriam-Webster defines gray water as household wastewater that does not contain serious contaminants.

Waste water from kitchen appliances, baths, sinks and washing machines is gray water.

“Say your coat, if you washed it, you’d kick off about 20,000 micro plastics because our clothes are getting more and more made of plastic,” Reinmuth said. “So we’re getting into the designing, modifying and redesigning stage right now. The kids are working on it. We’re hoping to make it to the top 10 again.”

The top 10 is the fourth stage of five in the Samsung competition.

Stage one, the entry period in September, is when teachers submit applications for their schools. The second stage called First Round was just completed. This is where the Gering students were chosen as state winners based on their submitted activity plan.

The third stage is where the schools submit videos of their project.

“That’s the stage we’re on now, we’re on the testing,” Reinmuth said. “Once we build and engineer, then we have to modify. The filters are kind of expensive to get started so we will not be building the final prototype until after Christmas.”

Reinmuth explained they are trying to create this filter on a commercial level so it can be used in any establishment that produces gray water.

The Gering students, sophomores through seniors, began brainstorming for this project at the end of last year.

“I do try to lead them into a modern problem,” Reinmuth said. “We’ve had every idea offered from the kids like making a magic bullet, so they come up with all kinds of crazy stuff, but I try to lead them in things that actually help the environment, help the community, help people in general and make a lasting legacy with what you do.”

Reinmuth talked about the students’ roles in the project.

“They have to build it, I can guide them in certain ways but I can’t just come in on a Saturday and build this thing. They have to build it and it’s unique how a lot of them will take their roles,” Reinmuth said. “Certain kids are better with their hands, certain kids are better with technology, so as the team progresses, it’s funny how they will kind of evolve their strong suit and they’ll allow other kids to take control of the situation, which is nice.”

Reinmuth and the Gering students won’t know until mid- to late-February whether they’re in the top 10 again.