LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The coronavirus pandemic kept most students at home and online for more than a year, but it also inspired many to unleash technology on the problems in their communities.

Students at Porter High School outside of Houston developed an app called Gen-Bridge that helps isolated senior citizens connect to games and online conversation with ease. They also raised money to send 17 tablets to nursing home residents.

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“I’m hoping it spans the nation and that all this isolation-induced depression gets eliminated or at least reduced by a great margin,” says tenth grader Preston Simer.

The teens pitched their work to the judges in Samsung’s 11th annual “Solve for Tomorrow” competition, which challenges public school teachers and students in grades 6-12 to use STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to tackle real-world problems.

“It’s so inspiring to be able to work with young people across the country, they have so many bright ideas and such passion to change the world,” says Samsung’s Ann Woo, who oversees the annual competition.

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Students at Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy came up with their project after watching Black Lives Matter protests unfold in their city. They developed a voice-activated app that records police interactions during protests and traffic stops.

“We’re allowing people of color and other people to have evidence to back themselves up in case of an altercation with the police,” says Sahil Jain, a sophomore at the school.

A third team, Hope of Detroit of Academy in Michigan, developed an app to report and track neighborhoods that need to be cleaned up.

As national winners, both teams will receive $130,000 worth of Samsung technology. But the students say it’s about more than prize money and bragging rights on their college applications.

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“This project made me realize that technology is a lot more accessible than people thought… its not that difficult to make a difference with tech,” tenth grader says Eric Cui, a sophomore at Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy.