OAKLEY -- Freedom High School has moved into the finals of a national competition that could bring it a truckload of technology.
And anyone who wants to see that happen can give the Oakley campus a thumbs up with the click of a mouse.
Environmental sciences teacher John Sierra and his students this week entered the final phase of Samsung's third annual Solve for Tomorrow, a contest designed to foster students' interest in science, technology, engineering and math by challenging them to come up with projects that tackle real-world environmental problems in their communities.
As one of 15 finalists, Freedom High is in contention for approximately $110,000 worth of technology, a grand prize that will be awarded to five high schools in March.
A panel of judges will choose three of the schools, Samsung employees will select the fourth, and the general public will decide the last one by voting online.
People can choose which project they think merits top honors by going to http://smsn.us/samsungsolve, which features videos describing each school's project.
Individuals can vote once a day after entering and verifying their email address.
The deadline is midnight March 4.
The winners will be announced on an as-yet undisclosed date next month.
The Oakley team entered the competition after deciding to landscape a nearly 6,000-square-foot plot on campus with native California plants, an outdoor classroom Sierra plans to use to underscore the importance of conserving water and preserving natural habitat.
Since the group started in early December it has planted its first tree, a Valley oak, along with several rosemary shrubs, a rose bush and a butterfly bush. Students also have started building a 50-foot planter box and assembling a shade structure.
Community members have been pitching in, too: Diablo Water District will donate wireless water meters so students can tell how much water they're using -- and saving -- in each of the five ecosystems they're creating, Sierra said.
And he noted that Oakley Councilman Randy Pope has offered bee boxes so the teens will have a way to pollinate their plants.
Sierra and his students were chosen from among 1,616 applicants to make the first cut, and as one of those 75 semifinalists they received a Samsung camcorder, laptop computer and Adobe video editing software to document their work.
Teens wrote the script and shot video, and Sierra edited their handiwork.
He discovered on Monday -- the same day the online polls opened -- that the video had earned Freedom a spot in the finals.
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.