As we touched on in an earlier post, IUSD continues to explore new technologies in and out of the classroom, with the intent of leveraging the talents of its staff and engaging students.
Well, student engagement was definitely on the mind of one Plaza Vista School teacher, who recently asked kids to come up with their own technological innovations for the school’s first-ever Technology Applied Science Fair. Nearly 100 students in grades three through eight accepted Scott Bedley’s challenge, developing their own software, apps and websites for the contest.
“When I developed the Technology Applied Science Fair I wasn’t sure how many students would be interested in being part of an optional computer technology competition,” says Bedley, who teaches fifth-graders at P.V. “I’m so proud of the number of students who stepped up to the challenge and shared their passion, ideas and creativity.”
Students ages eight to 14 signed up for the fair back in September either as individuals or as teams, tackling one of three categories: “Innovative Ideas,” “Innovative Use” or “Innovative Creation.” Their projects were presented in December, and the entries were judged by tech heavyweights from Blizzard Entertainment, Broadcom, Google, Honda and, of course, IUSD.
On Jan. 24, 18 finalists were announced at the fair’s inaugural awards ceremony. The top three teams learned they’ll be taking a field trip to Google’s Irvine offices, where they’ll get to take a tour, have lunch in the commissary and chat with Google engineers about their projects.
Abhishek Duvvuri was the fair’s school-wide winner. He developed a website for non-profit organizations designed to promote social interaction on a global scale.
Ty Karaoguz and Rohan Sepahi, who teamed up for one of the top-scoring projects, created a better way to view computer-based devices for those who would normally require prescription eyewear.
Finalists Adharsh Subramanian, Rithik Goel, Rishub Goel and Ali El Shantaly came up with a project that connects people with local charities to help others.
As for Bedley, he says he’s always looking for ways to motivate students through innovative educational practices, and he built the fair around three words: Create. Innovate. Demonstrate.
“I look for ways we can enrich the learning experience through project-based activities,” he says, “and when coupled with competition it better prepares students to compete globally. Competition is one of the key factors that made America so successful.”
As such, Bedley says he hopes to pilot another TAS Fair at the high school level. Eventually, he says, he’d like to see a yearly competition with projects from kindergarten through the 12th grade, and in the meantime he has offered to help other schools coordinate their own site-based fairs. (Educators who want to contact Bedley can do so by emailing him at ScottBedley@iusd.org.)
“I’m looking to form some partnerships and am so thankful for the support from the people at Google and the Vasur Foundation during this pilot process,” he says. “I’m hoping to connect with some universities, businesses and those whose goal is to empower our students through competition, higher-level thinking and creativity.”
“Without school district leadership that values innovation and trusts their teachers, creating and implementing a successful project such as the TAS Fair would have been challenging,” Bedley says. “I’m so thankful to leaders like our Superintendent Terry Walker; my principal, Heather Phillips; and the amazingly dedicated teachers at Plaza Vista for being open and supportive in finding new ways we can positively impact students.”