Channahon 7th-graders showcase tech projects in Springfield

Senators Pat McGuire, Sue Rezin viewed presentations

Just before school let out, three Channahon Junior High School seventh-graders got to take technology projects they made at school to Springfield, where they showed legislators just what students are capable of when given opportunity and resources.

The event was TECH 2018 Students for the Information Age. The Illinois Computing Educators organized the event.

Two of the CJHS students, Zach Casagrande and Lily Powell, showed their elected representatives a guided virtual reality tour of their school, complete with Google headset viewers. Hunter Petrovic also participated in the project but was unable to attend the event.

Another student, Ben Hoover, presented his invention of a solar-powered charger that recharges cellphones.

“We were really excited to send these students,” said Jeremy McBrayer, Channahon School District 17 director of 21st-century learning. “We think it was an important platform to talk to our elected leaders about and show them the things we do in school.”

“I was really impressed by how poised the kids were,” District 17 instructional technology resource teacher Renee Bogacz said. Bogacz accompanied the students to the forum. “They were not rattled or intimidated at all by these powerful adults who came up to them.”

Bogacz said visitors to their table included Sens. Pat McGuire, Sue Rezin and Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, who is a former principal of the school.

The event was designed to show members of the House and Senate how technology is used in the classroom to increase student engagement and improve achievement.

Ben Hoover developed his solar cellphone charger while in the school’s Dream Lab. Each student is challenged to identify problems in the real world and develop solutions.

Hoover’s problem was that his cellphone kept dying.

Working with his grandfather, David Kraft, an electrician, he learned to use wiring and soldering techniques. Hoover soldered solar panels to a portable phone charger. It didn’t work right at first, he said, and, at one point, he had to take it all apart, but eventually he had a working cellphone charger. He keeps it on his windowsill to catch the sunlight.

“It was pretty fun,” Hoover said of the Springfield exhibition. “It was a bit nerve-wracking at first, but a bunch of people seemed interested in my project.”

Powell and Casagrande presented an extracurricular project that gave viewers a guided virtual field trip through their school. Powell, Casagrande and Petrovic used the junior high’s 3-D camera to take 360-degree pictures of various parts of the school. They also did research on their school, classrooms and gymnasium and wrote text to read along with the visuals.

Using a beta Google Expeditions program, they incorporated the photos into a visual presentation representatives could see through the goggles. The students placed a cellphone inside the headgear with suction cups so viewers could hear the audio.

“I think technology is important in schools because students are going to go into work life, where it’s going to be mostly based on technology,” Powell said.

Casagrande said the project was fun, and the presentation went well.

“It was pretty cool to go to Springfield and present it to the senators,” he said. “It was an awesome experience. A lot of them thought it was pretty cool.”

He hopes the virtual reality tour can be used with new students coming into the school for the first time.

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