Dist. 65 students to share tech savvy
Katherine Jemian of Lake Bluff programmed her computer to manipulate a robotic arm. Jemian will share her work at the Students Involved with Technology Conference this week. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Students Involved with Technology
What: An Illinois technology conference by students, for students from third to 12th grade
Where: Simultaneously in Carbondale, DeKalb, Downers Grove, East Moline, Lincolnshire and Normal
Sponsors: Bloomington-Normal Education Alliance, Illinois State Board of Education and State Farm
Updated: February 21, 2013 11:08AM
LAKE BLUFF — Lake Bluff District 65 pupils will take their tech savvy to a whole new level Saturday at the Students Involved with Technology Conference when they will serve as presenters, not just attendees.
The nine Lake Bluff elementary and middle schoolers for the past couple of weeks put the final touches on the 30-minute talks they will give at Adlai Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire as part of a the six-site conference by students, for students.
Sixth-grader Katherine Jemian, 12, unloaded her covered bin at a practice last week, removing a laptop computer, a Raspberry Pi “brain,” an Ethernet device and a bunch of electronic cables she connected to a robotic arm.
After some finagling, the 12-year-old set to work explaining how she and her dad worked together to get the arm to move via commands from her laptop, bypassing the usual controller entirely.
“Now I’m telling the elbow to move,” Jemian said, as she watched the “fingers” on her arm inch closer to the plastic block she hoped to pick up through careful manipulation.
After several commands, the fingers grasped the block and the arm lifted it off the table, bringing a big smile from Jemian.
“I’m going to present about programming, how programming can be fun,” she explained. “Ultimately, I’ll show this at the end,” she said, as kind of a “grand finale.”
Eighth-grader Catie Slaughter, 14, admittedly has spent a lot of free time teaching herself how to program a computer using Scratch, which she described as “a nice program to program games.”
Slaughter showed how she can make the Scratch cat appear to move with a few commands.
“Right now I’m putting together a few blocks so it looks like he’s walking,” she said working on her laptop. “Sometimes you come up with some pretty cool stuff when you’re just playing around with an application.”
Slaughter first tried Scratch during a “Wacky Wednesday” advisory elective with District 65 Technology Curriculum Specialist Laurie Brown.
“Catie took it from there,” Brown said.
It was Brown who convinced 55 Lake Bluff students to attend the conference to learn about new technology and the nine to present their coolest finds. This is the first year students from Lake Bluff will be on the presenters’ side of the conference.
“Our kids have done some very creative things, sometimes at home and sometimes at school,” Brown said. “The great thing about presenting is they can show what they know in front of a group of people.”
Teacher Frances Zale attended the conference last year and is working with elementary school students who will share their knowledge on Saturday.
“The conference is a good way for these kids to demonstrate their leadership,” she said.
One of her students, fourth-grader Bridget Seymour, will present an online organizer she likes called “Inspiration.”
“I wanted to do the presentation part because I really wanted to teach something,” Seymour said. “I love to teach people.”
Also presenting at the Lincolnshire conference are Lake Bluff students Teddy Walinskas, Meghan Geraghty, Benjamin Bout, Christian Bout, Robert Pigg and Laila Markowski.