Dresden sixth graders Vito Pantalena, left, and Van O’Brien, right, were among the students who went to Lansing for the technology showcase.

Dresden sixth graders Vito Pantalena, left, and Van O’Brien, right, were among the students who went to Lansing for the technology showcase.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


UCS students show off tech acumen to legislators

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published January 3, 2020

 A Project Code presentation board reveals what Dresden Elementary School students have been learning through technology.

A Project Code presentation board reveals what Dresden Elementary School students have been learning through technology.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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STERLING HEIGHTS — When Dresden Elementary fifth-grader Georgia DiFalco went to Lansing recently to show lawmakers how she used an app to program an image onto a Micro:bit computer, it was both a teaching and a learning experience.

“It was kind of helping me understand it … when I talked to people about it,” she said.

Students from around 35 Michigan schools gathered at the Michigan Capitol Dec. 4 for the 19th annual AT&T/MACUL Student Technology Showcase. MACUL, which stands for the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning, is a group that aims to advance technology and teaching.

During the expo, Michigan students demonstrated their science and math skills in website design, programming, robotics and artificial intelligence. Some students used these tools to promote language arts and social studies, organizers said.

Dresden, Flickinger and Crissman elementary schools represented Utica Community Schools among the participants, according to Dresden media specialist Cheryl Boes.

“The whole purpose was that the students would be sharing a technology project,” Boes said. “Citizens as well as state legislators could talk with them and learn about how technology is being used in schools.”

Boes said four Dresden students — fifth-graders DiFalco and Lilly McNair, and sixth-graders Van O’Brien and Vito Pantalena — went to Lansing. Boes said Dresden’s showcase demonstrations included using coding tiles to make music on an iPad, programming a robot to shoot a pingpong ball into a basket, and using a Micro:bit computer to create a graphic.

“All students had access to similar robots and things we put together,” she said. “They can learn about coding and program the robot, take abstract knowledge and put it into practice with the robot.”

McNair explained how she used an Osmo educational app called Coding Jam to make music.

“You had these pieces, and each piece does something different,” she said. “And it would load onto the screen and do that.

“Coding can help you do anything. It can help you learn music, and it can just help you in any way.”

Boes called the showcase an interesting experience because the students were able to demonstrate what they’ve been learning to lawmakers, including state Sen. Pete Lucido, R-Shelby Township.

“They’re able to communicate the process that they’re going through and giving that message to a larger audience,” Boes said.

She attributed the students’ tech skills to UCS’s mobile coding labs, which are wheeled carts containing equipment such as iPads, robots and more. Boes said a grant from the nonprofit Community Telecommunications Network paid for the mobile labs, which can be transported from school to school.

Find out more about UCS by visiting www.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1000. Find out more about the MACUL showcase by visiting www.macul.org.

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