Thomas Jefferson Middle School students competing for technology money

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Flash flooding and flooding kills more people than lightning, hurricanes and tornadoes. That's why a team of young engineers at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Winston-Salem have created a system they call F.A.S.S.T. or Flood Alert Samsung Street Technology.

"We are hoping that states will take advantage of this," eighth-grade science teacher Mark Schnably said. "When we did the research, we found out that everywhere in the United States has a flash flooding problem."

Here's how F.A.S.S.T. works. A water sensor is attached to a gate. The system is then placed along a flood prone road. When the water rises to six inches, the sensor triggers the gate to swing into the street, closing the road to traffic. A signal is also sent to emergency management and a navigation app, letting folks know that the road is closed. Jay Kleinfeld is one of the members of the Jefferson Middle School team. He believes the flood alert system can save lives.

"I think it would be great to see it on the side of the road somewhere," Kleinfeld said. "I think it would really help save lives and make it easier for fire departments so they won't have too many water rescues."

Michael Gonzalez is another Jefferson Middle School team member. Gonzalez is also a Miami native. Being from Florida, Gonzalez knows all about the dangers of flooding.

"One of my family's cars was in the driveway and it just floated away and hit someone's house," Gonzalez said. "So you can imagine how it hurt them and the other family."

The flood alert system has already earned Jefferson Middle School $75,000 from the "Samsung Solve for Tomorrow" contest. Now the young engineers are going for the $150,000 grand prize. Mark Schnably said Jefferson Middle School will use the money to purchase more technology for the school.

"The problem is we don't have enough Chromebooks at our school," Schnably said. "So what happens, we have to share them with other teachers. The course of the instruction is interrupted and it does affects the kids learning."

Chromebooks for every class is great. But Michael Gonzalez is looking at the bigger picture.

"This is more than getting money for the school," Gonzalez said. "The best price you can get is saving a life. That's the best thing you can ever do."

The next step for Jefferson Middle School is the national finals. The team will travel to New York City and present their flood alert system to a panel of judges. Three $150,000 grand prize winners will be selected. But the community will also have a chance to vote. Samsung will award a $20,000 "Community Choice" prize. To vote for Thomas Jefferson Middle School, click here. Click vote now and select Thomas Jefferson Middle School, NC.

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