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MTA Leaders Visit Liberty Avenue Middle School Finalists for Their Subway Safety Idea

New York City Transit
Updated January 12, 2023 6:00 p.m.
Classroom Visit

Subway Safety Proposal Advances East New York 7th Graders to Finals of National STEM Competition

View Photos of Meet-and-Greet


Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City Transit President Richard Davey and Senior Vice President of Subways Demetrius Crichlow visited Liberty Avenue Middle School in Brooklyn today to surprise four 7th grade students who have been selected as one of ten state finalists in the 13th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM competition for their idea focused on subway safety. The finalists are Sinthia Orni, Criss Roman Castellanos, Chris Santos Martinez, and Qi Xu, all 12 years old from East New York, Brooklyn. 

Under the guidance of their teacher, Jessica Abrams, the students advanced to the finals for their idea of placing new smart signs in subway stations that would allow commuters to report either a 911 emergency or request mental health assistance with two separate buttons: one would connect to the police and the other button would connect to mental health responders. Their idea was inspired by old emergency service mini towers in their neighborhood with a red tab to alert FDNY and a blue tab to alert NYPD. The students began their assignment in October and submitted their idea in December. A state winner will be announced around February 15 and the national winners will be revealed in May. 

“I was ecstatic to learn that a group of 7th graders advanced to finals with an idea that involves the MTA, and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to meet them in person,” said New York City Transit President Richard Davey. “This goes to show how relevant public transit is to every New Yorker, no matter how old. I commend the work they are doing and their teacher for her support and leadership. I wish them the best of luck in the next round.” 

“It’s inspiring to see the students from Liberty Avenue Middle School, at such a young age, delve into brainstorming solutions for their community,” said New York City Transit Senior Vice President of Subways Demetrius Crichlow. “I hope we were able to provide a little more insight today on the MTA’s existing Help Points and hope they continue to apply this kind of creative thinking in all aspects of their lives.” 

“It was such an honor and incredible opportunity for the students to directly speak with experts at the MTA,” said Liberty Avenue Middle School Teacher Jessica Abrams. “The students take ownership of their learning, and I'm just the facilitator. They are the researchers, they embody the scientists and electricians and run with it. This was a great learning experience for all of them and one they’ll always remember.” 

As part of the brainstorming process, Ms. Abrams takes her students on a community walk to identify potential issues to take back to the classroom, begin the research process and determine whether the issue can be addressed using science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics (STEM). Liberty Avenue Middle School has participated in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition for the past three years for grade levels six through eight. In 2020, their first year, they were national finalists and won over $65,000 in technology for the classroom with their vape awareness and detector idea. In 2021, they created a fire safety app. 

During the visit by MTA leadership, the students engaged in an educational discussion, learned about the technology behind the existing Help Point systems, and received goodie bags, along with their other 11 classmates, filled with MTA-themed gifts and merchandise. Additionally, as a celebratory gift, the finalists received a free one-year Family Admission membership to the New York Transit Museum, courtesy of the museum. The Family Admission Pass admits up to five people. The New York Transit Museum displays historical transit pieces and showcases subway cars that have been used throughout the years, dating back to the first model in 1904.