High honor: BV EAST program wins Founder’s Award
By Kelby Newcomb
Berryville High School’s Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) program was one of four school chapters in the state to win the Founder’s Award this year.
According to EASTInitiative.org, the Founder’s Award is the most prestigious award any EAST school can win, and it is given to schools that best demonstrate EAST values like teamwork, collaboration and community involvement.
EAST facilitator Andrew Killingsworth said winning the award is not only a testament to the students in the EAST program but also to the teachers and educators in the Berryville School District.
“It’s a big deal, and this is not an award that just recognizes our EAST program,” Killingsworth said. “Inside of EAST itself, we don’t really teach any skills necessarily. The skills they bring into EAST they have learned in all of their other classes.”
Students apply what they have learned throughout their school careers in their EAST projects, he said.
“When you’re talking about the Founder’s Award, you’re talking about an award that’s for the whole school,” Killingsworth said. “This award is a shout-out to every educator and teacher in our school system because it’s everything they poured into these students that has come together in the culmination of all these different projects. It’s really neat. I’m really proud of that.”
Senior Grant Lee said the EAST students had to make a video about all of their projects and submit it to the EAST Initiative headquarters in Little Rock to be in the running for the Founder’s Award.
Sophomore Bryce O’Dell said they had to explain how they addressed EAST’s core components: community impact and collaboration, project sophistication and innovation and student growth.
“We had to explain the different technologies involved in our projects and the resources we put into them,” he said. “Each project has to actually make a difference, so we need to answer ‘How does it help the community?’ ”
Lee said the students were surprised when they learned they had won the Founder’s Award.
“We worked really hard on it for about three days,” said senior Kainean Matthews. “It was hectic trying to figure out how to piece it all together. They want us to think about it as much as possible at EAST headquarters, so they make it as vague as possible.”
Matthews said the students tried their best to make their video stand out.
“A couple of us were actually in here when they did the live stream on who won the Founder’s Awards,” he said. “It was almost unreal to see Berryville winning. It was really cool.”
“We’re really grateful,” said sophomore Samantha Witherby, “because there are a lot of schools competing for the same thing. Whenever we found out that we were the ones winning it, we kind of felt like it wasn’t real.”
Killingsworth said Berryville was one of only two high schools to receive the award this year. The students said two high schools and two middle schools won Founder’s Awards this year.
“You can’t take the middle schools for granted,” Lee said. “They’re really good. The ones there definitely deserve to be there.”
“It’s important to note this is not by classification,” Killingsworth said. “It’s not like it was us and all the other 4A schools. We competed against every school in Arkansas. We got them all.”
He said Berryville will receive the award Wednesday, March 13, at the EAST Conference in Hot Springs. The students will be competing for individual awards there as well, he said.
Killingsworth said Matthews and O’Dell have been developing sight-challenged sensors for blind cross country runners this year, and their project is one of five finalists for an award at the state competition.
“They’re basically one of five projects in the entire state that are up for project of the year,” Killingsworth said.
“We were sitting in class talking about how there are a few blind cross country runners in West Fork,” Matthews said, “and how they have to go through the course with a guide runner. As a cross country runner, when somebody is trying to pass you then you get competitive and speed up.”
Blind runners don’t have that opportunity, he said, because they cannot tell when people are about to pass them.
“So we were trying to figure out a way to help even the playing field a little bit,” Matthews said. “The idea was a synthetic depth perception. The closer an object gets the faster [the sensor] will buzz.”
“We’re adding a beeping noise so it’s a little more audible,” O’Dell said, “because when you’re running you don’t feel the buzzing as much.”
Matthews said they have expanded the project as they worked on it.
“It’s not just going to be for the blind cross country runners,” he said. “It will be for the blind community in general. Since we do use virtual reality (VR) so much there’s a lot of hitting that wall over there, so we’re going to try to incorporate it into our VR use as well and hope that helps a lot.”
He said they are also looking into adapting the idea for blind pets.
“It’s hard for them to maneuver around houses,” Matthews said, “so we’re trying to figure out a way to make it more pet-friendly and a way to attach it to a cat or dog.”
“They’re thinking it will beep, and the dog after a while will realize when it beeps they usually run into something,” Killingsworth said, “so they will know to stop.”
“We’re going to try to teach an old dog some new tricks,” O’Dell said.
Lee said he, Logan Sigmon and Bailey Doss are also up for an award at the state competition for their work on the Stream Team.
“We decided to do a Stream Team through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission,” Lee said. “We’re testing the water down below the Highway 62 bridge after the Osage and Kings rivers meet. While we were doing that, we realize there’s really nowhere to submit our data for people to actually see it and use it.”
He said his team started working with Game and Fish and the University of Arkansas to develop a database for the state of Arkansas by using a software called Survey123 for ArcGIS.
“We want to make it to where all the stream teams in the state can look at everybody else’s data,” Lee said. “That way researches or scientists can actually study it. Everything is on pen and paper at the headquarters in Little Rock. It’s not easily accessible at all.”
“There’s no way to monitor trends and water data, so these guys are digitizing the whole process,” Killingsworth said. “It’s an app on your phone.”
Lee said stream teams and EAST programs can type the data they find into their phones and automatically upload it to the database.
“As soon as you hit ‘service,’ it will submit it into the database and organize it all,” he said. “It will be right there in front of you for you to look at.”
“So 10 years from now especially, there could be a wealth of data on Arkansas water systems,” Killingsworth said, “because of a group of high schoolers.”
He said there is also a group of Berryville students participating in a 3-D printing at the state conference.
“Last year at the EAST conference, they were sending principals and superintendents over to our booth just to check out the way these guys were presenting and the things they were doing,” Killingsworth said. “That’s what gave us the confidence this year to try for this big Founder’s Award.”
He said Berryville’s EAST chapter could potentially receive $2,000 to $3,000 worth of technology as part of the award.
“Some years, they give out computers and technology and things we in our class desperately need,” Killingsworth said. “Our EAST program started a decade ago almost, so some of our equipment is pretty dated. The school tries to help us out, and we have gotten grants in the past to update things. We’re excited to potentially get some new stuff.”