BV High School students excel at EAST Conference
Berryville High School’s Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) team swept up awards at the EAST Conference this year, setting an example for EAST groups across the state.
The state conference took place from March 13-15 in Hot Springs. Berryville’s EAST group was named a competition fFinalist and received a Tech in Action Finalist Award. Several students also received individual awards. Bryce O’Dell won third place in the Tech Support Olympiad, and Zachary Favors, Kainean Matthews, Bailey Doss and Jose Sanchez received Difference Maker Awards.
EAST facilitator Andrew Killingsworth said there were 230 schools representing five states at the conference, with more than 3,000 students in attendance. Each school sends an eight-member delegation, he said.
“Our students did really well, so that was exciting,” Killingsworth said. “Berryville was a Competition Finalist, which is a big deal. A small fraction of schools get to do that.”
He said O’Dell had to complete several preliminary rounds of competition before being selected for the Tech Support Olympiad. Of all the EAST programs participating, Killingsworth said only five students are selected to participate.
“Basically, they give you all these tech problems to solve,” he said. “You have to find the hidden codes, decode binary and use Photoshop to find the negative of something. It tests your general knowledge of websites and computers, so you have to have a pretty broad base.”
Killingsworth continued, “If you get invited, you compete live in front of all these people. Bryce had about an hour and a half. It was impressive.”
The Difference Maker Awards, he said, are given out by the EAST Conference leadership team to students who are going above and beyond at the conference.
“They go old school and give you a coin. It’s like a little medal,” Killingsworth said. “It’s the cream of the crop getting those awards.”
He said half of Berryville’s delegation received the award.
“Bailey Doss called me and said ‘I got a Difference Maker Award!’ Then later Kainen Matthews called me and said he got one, too,” Killingsworth said. “We ended up with half our team getting them. They were stoked. It was fun to watch that. They were really driven this year and wanted to make Berryville look good.”
Senior Zachary Favors said he received a Difference Maker Award for stepping out of his comfort zone to promote Berryville’s booth.
“I went out of my way to grab people’s attention and have them check out our booth,” he said. “They said they thought it was cool that I was stepping out and engaging with everyone. It felt pretty good. It was a nice accomplishment to take away from the conference.”
“I got one for talking about the programming behind Unity and how we were using it for one of our projects,” Matthews said.
Killingsworth said Berryville also won the Best in Tech Finalist for the second year in a row for its use of virtual reality (VR) in its booth.
“We take all of our project and put them in VR,” he said. “That way, you’re not limited by the 10 by 10 booth. You have as much space as you want. People loved that. We have a lot of schools contacting us about it now, and we’re trying to develop an online classroom that any EAST group can log into.”
Sophomore Kourtney Granger said she enjoyed the EAST Conference.
“It was really fun, and you got to see a bunch of different stuff that involved a lot of different technologies,” she said. “What was cool about it is we get to learn from different schools and bring it back to our EAST program.”
“We met some really cool people,” Favors said. “We’re going to collaborate with some of them on our VR project, which enables us to collaborate with students from all over the state and country.”
Matthews said it was cool seeing students their age making such a big impact at the EAST Conference.
“Some kids were making national news and stuff,” he said. “It was cool to see a bunch of kids from Arkansas making a huge difference in the country.”
Matthews continued, “I thought it was cool how well our group did because we’re from Berryville. No one knows who we are, so we made a name for ourselves just because of our work ethic and what we do with our technology.”
The students said they plan to enter more contests at the EAST Conference next year.
“We didn’t enter any this year, but, when we came back, they were like ‘We’re entering every single one next year,’ ” Killingsworth said. “That’s what I wanted. I didn’t want it to be me pushing it. A lot of the projects entered in the competitions were like things we’ve already been doing.”
He said the students have already begun making lists of possible fundraisers and projects for the competitions.
Killingsworth said the thing that made him the most proud was EAST leadership holding Berryville up as an example of what EAST can be.
“The leadership at EAST pulled me aside and said ‘We wanted you to know you all did a good job. We were sending administrators over to your booth specifically,’ ” he said. “I said I wished I could have warned my kids, and they said it was better this way because the kids were themselves and did perfectly. To me, that was better than any award we could have received.”