PLEASANTON (CBS SF) — Two Bay Area schools have been named semi-finalists in Samsung’s National STEM Contest.

Foothill High School in Pleasanton and John M. Horner Middle School in Fremont were selected for their outstanding STEM projects. They are now part of 75 semi-finalists from around the country in the 11th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest.

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The program encourages 6th-12th grade students to solve real-world issues in their community using classroom skills in science, technology, engineering and math.

Foothill High and Horner Middle schools were chosen based on their creative and strategic proposals to solve complicated issues that affect their communities by using STEM learning. Each semi-finalist school will receive $15,000 to be redeemed on as well as a Samsung Galaxy Note20 to execute their project this school year.

Foothill High’s project focused on California’s drought and the significant impact the drought has on both the state’s food production and water supply. Students built an AI-powered web application called Hydra that visually maps out the moisture necessity of an area based on satellite imagery and drone footage.

“I think personally for me the inspiration for this project kind of comes from looking around our own community and driving around and seeing some areas where water is overflowing on the sidewalks while in other areas, the grass is drying out,” said Foothill student Keerthana Nallamotu. “As a community that has been in a drought a few years ago and now again, I think it’s really important to take tools like technology to start thinking about and solving these issues and that’s what we tried to do with our project Hydra which aims to increase the efficiency of irrigation allocation.”

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The goal of the Foothill High project Hydra is to give public works officials better data on what areas need irrigation, allowing them to target their resources and minimize water waste.

“Basically, what Hydra is, is an image classification application that analyzes aerial imagery to identify lawn areas and rate them on a scale of water necessity to make it easier for public works officials to more efficiently allocate their sprinkler resources,” said Nallamotu.

Foothill students said they enjoyed working together to solve this real-world issue using STEM.

“It’s awesome to combine STEM with actually helping people and big issues we see around us,” said Foothill student Kiran Suresh. “It’s one of the best parts of STEM knowing that we can combine interesting things and research into real-world problem-solving.

Shannon Sos, Foothill’s computer science teacher who helped oversee the project, said he is extremely proud of his students.

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“I can’t even describe it!” said Sos. “I’ve had them in class. I’ve worked with them with their projects over the last couple of years and what they were able to do is absolutely amazing. I’m just happy to be attached to it. I take almost no credit other than the fact that I know them and I was able to get them some suggestions here in there but this is all them and it really shows what students are able to do when they get excited about STEM, when they get an interest in something.”