Students Makey-Makey Technology Work

– Technology has advanced so rapidly in the SpencerEast Brookfield Regional School District that the roles of parents teaching kids have reversed. Last week, it was the students explaining to their parents how several new devices and applications work.

Residents have often heard about the infusion of new technologies in the district over the last few years, and many parents got their first up-close look at the devices during the June 13 technology expo at East Brookfield Elementary School. But the devices weren’t simply sitting around for display – students from different schools ran stations and demonstrated the technology in action.

One of the most fascinating demonstrations was run by Lucas Aubuchon, a seventh grader at Knox Trail Middle School who showed guests how Makey Makey devices use the conductivity in household items – even fruits and vegetables – to transform them into keyboards. By creating circuits through these conductive objects, the device sends commands to a computer through wires – just like when a button is pressed on a keyboard.

“It is really interesting to see how you can use everyday objects to do this. We have learned a lot – and had a lot of fun,” Aubuchon said.

The goal of many new technologies in the district is to get students thinking creatively about how applications work and how to explore new ways to solve problems. From robots to Cubelets to Bee-Bots, the devices help students build a foundation of knowledge in all areas of STEM, which will assist them greatly as they move on to high school and start thinking about a career.

Officials in each of the district’s schools are thrilled to see how fascinated and engaged students have been in the technologies. At Knox Trail Middle School, a robotics club has flourished thanks to the leadership of eighth grader Billy Lascom, who demonstrated how Cubelets work during the technology expo.

For teachers at the respective schools, it’s important to see kids getting started in STEM early. Long gone are the days of engineering studies being limited to high school students – SEBRSD officials want to build the foundation early.

“It is very nice to see our communities and schools really come together and be a galvanizing force. We are focused on innovation and trying to give kids new opportunities,” said KTMS Assistant Principal John Thoma. “Our students love learning about the new devices, and our programs are growing exponentially.”

District leaders aim to continue the momentum in future years by introducing the latest devices which are transforming how students learn. Dan Nelson, a representative of Dallas-based RoboKind, attended the expo to demonstrate how his company’s Milo robot plays an integral role in instruction for students with autism. District officials hope to introduce the robots in their schools and develop a curriculum based on them.

“They teach social, emotional, and behavioral skills that students with autism struggle with,” Nelson said of the Milo robots. “This device gets 87 percent engagement from kids, and it augments the work they do with therapists.”

District officials are excited to see how the technology will expand from here. The opportunities are endless, administrators said.

“Dr. [Tracy] Crowe has been visionary in bringing new technology to our district. This wouldn’t have happened without her pursuing new opportunities,” said Kara Westerman, the district’s director of pupil services. “The students are so engaged with all types of technology.”