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NHS Students Preparing For Connecticut Computer Science Expo In May



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As part of a technology challenge, Newtown High School students are working to create both an app and wearable technology to interact with the program for the Skills21 Expo Fest in mid-May in Wallingford.skills21.org/expofest, the event offers a chance for students to showcase "innovative, cross-curricular products, services, community actions, digital media, and film programs."

The group of students began working on the project in January, under the direction of NHS computer technology teacher Kristin Violette. According to the event's website,

Junior Garrett Marino explained that Ms Violette invited the group of students to work together on a project to bring to the expo. The 11 students have been working after school, gathering in Ms Violette's classroom to create the app. After brainstorming ideas, Garrett said the students decided to create an app that would allow students or parents to monitor where their school bus is on its route.

"We were all dishing out different ideas," said Kyle Shelton, a sophomore.

Kyle said he wanted to participate in the effort because he is "really interested in all computer science fields," as it is "a big part of our world."

Senior Zach DeMeglio said he liked participating in creating the app and wearable device, because it is both challenging and interesting.

Garrett added that the group is using Arduino kits to create a wearable technology that will interact with the app. According to Arduino, its products allow users to create interactive electronic objects. Garrett said the students are working to create a watch that will interact with the app.

For the expo, Garrett said the students will pitch the app and technology, similar to a business pitch.

Newtown Middle School eighth grader Sam Staubly has also been working with the high schoolers as a "mentor," since this is the first time the NHS students are working with Arduino kits. According to Ms Violette, Sam has more experience with the kits because the middle school has been using Arduino products and Sam is familiar with them.

"This is the first of three years that [the expo has] received funding for a computer science challenge," said Ms Violette. "I think this is extremely significant, because computer science is just starting to gain momentum in the state."

To prepare for the expo, Ms Violette said the students presented their idea to judges at IBM on March 9.

"These kids have big dreams and big ability, so I think they are going to be able to pull it off," said Ms Violette.

The students have also been working with a representative of All-Star Transportation to further understand the challenges of creating an app that would track buses and a representative of Radio Frequency Systems in Meriden to learn more about interactive technology.

Ms Violette said The Weller Foundation of Woodbury and the NHS PTSA both provided grants to support the NHS project.

Overall, Ms Violette said she hopes the expo inspires computer science education and fosters an understanding of the interactive nature of the field. Events like the expo, she added, broadens an awareness that computer science includes hands-on activities.

Students working on the Skills21 Expo Fest project at NHS pose together for a photo. Pictured from left are, in front, Sara Sequeira and Maddison Rooney; middle row; Colden Bobowick, Arav Dave, and Ardit Gjonbalaj; and back row, Zach Demeglio, Jacob Goldstein, and Kyle Shelton. (Kristin Violette photo)
Sam Staubly, left, and Zach DeMeglio work near each other on March 5 on the NHS project for the Skills21 Expo Fest. (Bee Photo, Hallabeck)
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