EAST Night Out: Program challenges students to solve problems
"We have an amazing thing," Berryville High School freshman Connor Teigen said at the school's EAST Night Out on Monday, Oct. 14.
This thing, according to Teigen, is a website dedicated to teaching computer coding to people of all ages and disciplines.
Teigen built the website with a couple of friends in his Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) class. So far, the group has utilized the website and the knowledge they used to create it to teach younger students the basics of HTML coding. Just last week, the group taught coding to Berryville's seventh grade keyboarding classes all day.
"The objective is to spread the knowledge of coding," Teigen said. "We hope to expand this as far as we can."
The group will teach more classes soon, traveling to the Academy of Excellence in Eureka Springs, a school Teigen previously attended. He also hopes to teach various school faculty members the basics of coding and plans to lead the school through December's week-long "Hour of Code" campaign. This campaign encourages all students, from kindergarten to 12th grade, to spend an hour each day of the week learning about coding.
While Teigen's group has a developed project, fellow freshmen Brett O'Dell and Allen Carpenter Jr. are just getting started on their project. The freshmen are working with the Raspberry Pi, a mini-computer they have been using to learn more about digital technology.
"As it is, it has a surprising amount of processing," O'Dell said, adding that the mini-computer is mobile and can be taken "basically anywhere you go."
The students plan to hook the computer up to a circuit board to explore all it can do. For now, though, they are just learning how to use it.
Kirk Ashworth, facilitator of Berryville's EAST program, said the students involved in the program have many opportunities to explore their interests in EAST. "They're really neat kids," he said, noting that students have developed various projects since he began working as EAST facilitator last year.
Like Ashworth, High School Principal Owen Powell is impressed by the students in the program. He noted that two of Berryville's students, Derek Doss and Kalie Kendrick, were on the EAST National Leadership Team last year. These leadership roles are competitive and limited, according to Powell.
"It's a real honor to be on that team and to have two students from one school on it is an even bigger honor," he said.
Doss, who has been in the program since his freshman year and will be graduating from Berryville High School this spring, said it has affected him more than any of the clubs at the school. He credited the program with helping him shape his future plans. When Doss entered the program, he wanted to be a computer engineer. He quickly found through a couple hands-on projects that he was not as interested in computer engineering as he initially thought.
"It was experience you'd have in college without wasting money," he said, adding that he now wants to study chemical and biological engineering before studying neurology in graduate school. Doss has applied to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), hoping to attend the school next fall. He hopes his experience in EAST will increase his chances of being admitted. He has been the undesignated leader of the program since fixing a server error a couple years ago.
Though Doss said he has been working primarily as a "cat herder" in EAST, he has also been developing a new project. Doss wants to start an engineering club at Berryville High School after discovering a similar club at Arkansas Tech University. He has contacted the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, which also has an engineering club, for help with the project.
Like Doss, other students in the EAST program enjoy the self-directed nature of the program.
"The homework in this class is to learn something. It's amazing," Carpenter said.
Teigen said he likes everything about EAST.
"It's a program where we have the ability to express ourselves in a really productive way," he said.
Powell said the program is "a really good thing for our kids" because of its high expectations.
"They have to step up and take responsibility for their learning. That's what the whole program is really about," he said, adding that projects like Teigen's allow students to apply their learning to the surrounding community.
EAST is a project-based, service-learning oriented program with high-end technology available to students who want to use it. According to www.EastInitiative.org, the program is "a coordinated effort to provide today's students with an educational atmosphere that allows them to gain insight into their own ability to acquire and use information, solve problems and develop valuable experience."
Berryville High School started the program, which was founded in Arkansas 18 years ago, in 2010.