Hart students show off STEM talents for Illinois legislators

  Homewood District 153 students, from left, Elli
  Wojcikowski, Jessica Lyseng and Aaron Latman show
  Rep. Thaddeus Jones of Calumet City one of their
  technology projects on display at Illinois Tech 2018
  in the state capitol May 10.
(Provided photos)
 
In the two short years the James Hart School Smart Lab has been open, students at the Homewood school have mastered technology and on May 10 they showed off projects at the Tech 2018 Illinois program at the Illinois State Capitol.
 
Aaron Latman, Jessica Lyseng and Ellie Wojcikowski were presenters in Springfield showing off three projects students created specifically for the event. They were accompanied by teacher Cheri Pesina.
 
  Aaron Latman uses a
  computer program to
  manipulate the robotic
  elephant, built by James
  Hart School classmates
  Nicole Peterson and
  Berlinda Nwachukwu.

 
The Smart Lab is designed in two parts – six weeks on creative media arts (CMA) in the District 153 broadcast studio and six weeks on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) issues in the computer lab. Pesina directs the CMA side of the Smart Lab and teacher Katie Nigro is the STEM lab facilitator.
 
The curriculum has students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades spending six weeks on STEM project and six weeks developing CMA programs.
 
Pesina was delighted when her application for the Tech 2018 event was accepted by the Illinois Computing Educators organization. She had attended the annual tech program in the past and was certain the Hart students would be able to develop projects, although they had only three weeks time.
 
“For their age they’re doing some magnificent things,” Pesina said of the eighth graders.
 
  James Hart School eighth
  grader Ellie Wojcikowski
  used a computer design
  program to plot a floor
  plan for a house, and
  then created the house
  (in blue) using a 3-D
  printer in the school's
  SMART Lab.

 
Jessica said she wanted to use her project “to help in some way on how kids study and learn something. My original idea was a map and they would tap through,” but instead she decided to take “Chuck,” a skeleton owned by her father, Dr. David Lyseng, and use it to create a game.
 
“I thought it’d be fun for kids to learn the bones because we brushed over that this year. I wanted them to interact with the skeleton,” Jessica said. 
 
She used two computer programs she’d learned to use in the Smart Lab. The Scratch program allowed her to create an online game. Points are earned when a student touches a certain bone on the skeleton and selects the right answer on the game. Correct answers allow a student to advance through the 11 questions to identify skeletal bones.
 
Jessica used the Makey-Makey program to wire up the skeleton so that the computer would know which bone the student was touching. The power box was attached to Chuck’s back, and she draped the wires done his arms, legs, neck, pelvis and head.
 
“The first wire was the biggest leap. Once you get that done (the technique) works on everything,” she explained. Tinfoil around the bone gives students an indication of where to touch to activate the computer. 
 
Jessica also realized she needed a ground wire, and originally she had students hold it, but found “they were more freaked out when they were just holding a wire. It wasn’t as friendly or welcoming” as she wanted it to be. She made an adjustment and attached the wire to Chuck’s hand.
 
Her father built the base that allowed the skeleton to stand connected to a rod. Around school, Chuck was transported in a wheelchair.
 
Students Berlinda Nwachukwu and Nicole Peterson used the MindStorms program and Legos for their project. The girls built an elephant of Legos and wired it to respond to the computer program they wrote that gave the elephant instructions for movement.  Aaron demonstrated the project in Springfield.
 
Ellie used the Tinkercad program that allowed her to design a house.  She then transferred that design to Dremel, the Smart Lab’s 3-D printer that created her dream house in plastic following her design.
 
Nigro said although the students have been working in the lab only two years, “their work is amazing.” 
 
“James Hart stole the show in Springfield with their original technology projects.  They wowed the legislators that stopped by our booth,” Pesina said, including Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Harvey, and Reps. Will Davis of Homewood and Thaddeus Jones of Calumet City, who recognized the students and Pesina on the floor of the Illinois House later in the day.  


 

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