Caroline Yates, an 8th grade student at Ashland Middle School (Ashland Independent), wanted to use her Student Technology Leadership Program (STLP) project to explore an issue close to her family: Alzheimer’s disease.
“[It affects] my grandmother – so it affects my mother and my grandfather,” Yates explained.
Yates was part of a 15-person student team that worked on the Ashland Middle School (AMS) ‘Helping Those in Need’ project, which won Best Project for Grades 6-8 at the STLP State Championship on April 20.
Fifteen students worked on the project at different stages. They were Caroline Yates, Reagan Hayes, Caity Pierce, Ryder Phillips, Caleb Conway, Luke Corliss, Cameron Davis, Kahlil Ealey, Caden Ferguson, Jonah Francis, Zac Johnson, Rilee Bohanon, Ryder Prickett, Lesly Reyes and Carter Williams. For many students, this was their first time working on an STLP project.
STLP projects address real-world concerns, issues, or challenges identified by students. Successful projects present their elevator pitch focusing on STLP technical standards: Self-Learner, Digital Citizen, Knowledge Builder, Innovative Designer, IT Thinker, Creative Communicator and Global Collaborator.
AMS students began by thinking about projects that interested them or topics that had personal connections.
“We came up with a list of all kinds of ideas and this was the one we liked the most,” Phillips said.
Hayes’ father is a doctor, so the team consulted him on what someone with Alzheimer’s would find helpful. They eventually came up with the idea of creating an in-home hub to help make life easier for people with memory loss and ease the burden on their families by providing reminders, facilitating communication, and providing a greater sense of security.
The interactive box contains two Google kits that the students built following the instructions provided and an online tutorial. The first is an AIY vision kit, used to build a smart camera that can see and recognize objects using machine learning, and the second kit is an AIY voice kit used to build a natural language processor that allows the person interacting with the box to ask questions and issue voice commands. Both fit in their own little cardboard cube, powered by Raspberry Pi, a credit card-sized computer.
After the design team worked on the box, the students felt the first design was “obnoxious” with its bright orange exterior, so they went back to the drawing board. The submitted design is their second prototype.
“The first one we did, we had a lot of things we wanted to do, but once we tried it, it didn’t work. We had to go back and redesign it,” Phillips said.
The students also presented their project in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition. AMS was named one of the 100 state winners and received $6,500 along with Samsung products and educational resources. Over the past five years, AMS has been a four-time state finalist, two-time national finalist, and national champion in 2017-18.
Students agreed that the STEM program at STLP and AMS gave them the opportunity to practice lifelong skills such as collaborating with others, creative problem solving, and presentation skills.
“[STLP] really helped me get out there and tell other people about our project,” Ferguson said.
“It was very interesting to learn how to put it all together and integrate all different kinds of technology and innovation to solve a problem,” Yates said. “It really helped us gain new perspectives on problem solving.”
AMS STLP coach Mark Harmon said words cannot describe how proud he is of the students and their two wins.
“Early on in the project, they started coming up with these big ideas…it was one of those things where [I said] “Hey, you can try, but I doubt we’ll get there.” However, they went beyond all of those expectations, and they really impressed me,” Harmon said. “We do a lot of STEM, we do a lot of tech. It gives them an outlet to apply their learning to something real, personal and tangible.
The students and their teacher will travel to New Orleans, Louisiana in June to present their project at the STLP Nationals.