Parents and community members got a first-hand look at how School District 51 students are using technology in classrooms at the inaugural Tech Expo on Wednesday.
The expo is a way to connect with community members who are curious about what kind of technology their tax dollars are being used for, said Executive Director of Technology Randy Dalton.
"We want to have that outreach to the community to see what's going on in our schools, because sometimes that's hidden behind the brick and mortar," Dalton said. "There are teachers in schools that are doing some really neat and creative things."
More than 200 teachers also attended technology training courses offered at the expo, Dalton said.
Students and teachers from approximately 30 schools and six sponsors filled the board room at R-5 High School with robots, computers, 3D printers and printed displays.
Quinn Riddell-Brosig, a seventh-grade student at West Middle School, was using a computer he built in his bedroom to run a 3D printer that he and his peers use in MESA club.
Quinn's favorite part of MESA is "getting to do projects we wouldn't normally get to do in school, like the mousetrap car competition," he said.
East Middle School seventh-grader Preston Hill hooked his computer up to a small circuit board, or Makey Makey, to create a tubular sound circuit. Preston wired small PVC pipes and put marbles covered with conductive tape inside. Every time a marble rolls to one end of the pipe and creates a circuit, his computer emits a noise — a dog barking, a cat meowing or a wolf howling.
"I'm a pretty good student, so STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) helps me think and challenge myself," he said.
At Fruitvale Elementary School's table, Vanessa Milton was working on a math skills computer game, Prodigy, that she used as a fifth-grader.
Her teacher, Laura Stewart, said students play the game if they finish work early or when they're at home. It identifies math skills that students need to improve on and gives them problems to solve, but in the context of a video game.
"It helps with response, critical thinking and engagement," Stewart said. "It's a second dose of learning."
Vanessa said while she likes the game, she still likes regular lessons.
"I also like Ms. Stewart teaching us math, because she also does what (the game) does, she explains it if we don't understand," she said.
Dalton said he plans to make the expo an annual event.
"Every one of these kids has a story to tell. Every one of these kids has done something that's been meaningful and that's fun in their environment and fun for learning," he said. "I hope it builds excitement for what we're doing and what we can do in the future with technology education in the classroom."