Technologically-gifted middle school students from Horry County spent this past week creating apps, designing computer games and printing 3D models.
The iTEAMS Xtreme competition, held at Conway Middle School, allows selected students to flex their computer knowledge while learning technological skills necessary for future jobs in science, math, engineering and tech fields.
The camp ran from Monday to Thursday, with students pitching their projects to a panel of “sharks” – or investors similar to the popular “Shark Tank” TV show – Thursday morning.
“At this age, it’s very important that students get this exposure to all these tech programs,” said Conway Middle teacher Janella Givens. “Especially the kids in this area, they’re not always fortunate enough to use the apps or this technology.”
The competition is sponsored by the S.C. Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics. Rising 7th and 8th grade students had to apply and were selected on grades and interest.
They’re using all the 21st century skills that we all have to have, while innovating an idea and making it interesting enough to make it worth investing.”
Robin Jones, principal at the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology and an iTeam judge
Students were grouped into teams and could choose from three challenges:
- creating a mobile app that has a real-world application
- creating an interactive object from everyday items, such as Play-Doh, marshmallows and a keyboard
- and creating a 3D model – printed from a 3D printer – that will hold everyday objects
Sarah Beth Ives, from Forestbrook Middle School, developed an application called “Bacon Ball” with her three teammates. Users ask questions of the ball – similar to a Magic 8 Ball – and receive a fact about bacon before the ball provides an answer.
So why bacon?
“Everyone loves bacon,” Ives said. “It’s just fun.”
Students had three days to develop their projects, form a pitch and create apps before asking a panel of “sharks” for an investment. Ives and her team built a PowerPoint presentation and created fliers to entice the sharks into investing.
“I think they thought it was a unique idea,” Ives said. “It needs a little bit of work, but I think overall they liked it.”
The students learned computing and coding skills over the four-day camp, as well as interpersonal skills such as public speaking. Many of these technical skills are important for future careers in any field, according to rising 7th grader Hannah Loudin.
“Building the app was a lot more complicated than you’d think,” Loudin said. “ But it was good to learn how hard it was, so that I can be prepared for it in the future.”
The “sharks” included local officials and staff from Horry County Schools. Robin Jones, principal at the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology, judged students who created apps with real-world applications. She said the camp exposed students to skills necessary for life in the new millennium.
“They’re using all the 21st century skills that we all have to have, while innovating an idea and making it interesting enough to make it worth investing,” Jones said.
Students also had to develop communication skills to present their projects to possible investors.
“This camp also enhances their public speaking skills,” said “shark” judge Lisa Holzberger, GIS coordinator with the city of Myrtle Beach.
“We’re in a digital world, and kids have trouble talking to each other let alone adults. So this gives them the opportunity to practice,” she said.
A weeklong exposure to technological skills was enough of a reason for Mike Merolla to enroll in iTEAMS. The ability to create a computer game and use Play-Doh for the controls was just an added bonus.
The rising 7th grader from Forestbrook Middle, along with his three teammates, designed a game called Galatic Invasion, which allowed players to “protect the earth” from “evil alien butterflies.” Players used arrow keys made out of Play-Doh and attached to a computer chip to control the spaceship’s gun.
“This is really basic, but it could turn into something else later – maybe even a future career,” Merolla said.
Contact CLAIRE BYUN at 626-0381 and follow her on Twitter @Claire_TSN.