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Midvale Journal

Techniteer Troupe provides opportunities for Midvalley students

May 23, 2018 01:54PM ● By Julie Slama

Midvalley’s Techniteer Troupe members learn how to control Spheros. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This past school year, Midvalley fourth-grader Vanessa Cruz joined her school’s Techniteer Troupe since she had never made a movie or learned how Spheros worked before.

“I wanted to learn and Ms. Blunt inspired me to try to do something I never had done before,” Vanessa said about the group’s adviser, Canyons School District education technology specialist Katie Blunt. “It was pretty hard to learn the controls of the Spheros, and the more I learned, the more I had fun. I now want to make my own codes.” 

The first year of Midvalley’s Techniteer Troupe began in October 2017 when Blunt and Principal Tamra Baker decided to have a fun activity to offer students afterschool. This year’s focus was on filmmaking, Spheros and Makey Makeys. 

“We offer our students technology during the day, but sometimes the needs are not met for those who just love technology more than we are able to provide them, so we thought this would give an opportunity to the group of students who wanted to learn more,” Baker said.

Blunt began the year with filmmaking. 

“We wanted them to learn the art of storytelling and to be able to practice their communication skills,” she said. “We created movies that supported the positive behavior at the school and included school rules and citizenship in the films.”

Fourth-grader Haroon Javid said he learned how to use a tripod and the steps to create a movie. His classmate, Elijah Zabriskie, who had moved to the school from Arizona, said that he liked learning about filmmaking — and having the opportunity to make movies with his new friends in the group.

Fifth-grader Joshua Digerness said it sparked his interest in films.

“We made a film about our school rules, PAWS, which are practice safety, accept responsibility, work toward mastery and show respect and it was a lot of fun,” Joshua said. “We showed it at our school assembly and at the end of the film, we wore giant mustaches and our PAWS shirts and asked, ‘We mustache ask you…’ — and anyway, everyone laughed.” 

From the movie-making sessions, the group moved onto Spheros, white orbs that roll in the direction controlled by an electronic device.

“The students were learning how they were connected with an iPad and how they could control them,” Blunt said. “They learned block coding. Spheros and coding will help them with their problem-solving skills and no matter where their education takes them in the future, the ability to problem-solve will help them. It’s a great life skill.” 

The challenges for the students to solve included determining the speed, direction and going up ramps for the Spheros, she said.

Fourth-grader Jon Digerness said it was his first time learning about Spheros.

“It’s a lot of fun, having them roll around,” he said, adding that he joined the group to have fun and make new friends.

The final part of the year was dedicated to Makey Makeys, an electronic invention tool that uses a circuit board, alligator clips and a USB cable to allow the device to turn everyday objects into touchpads.

Blunt had plans for the students to understand the conductor and insulator of electricity through experiments with Makey Makeys and Play-Doh, wood, their skin and other objects.

“By understanding technology, these students will have a step in the future job market,” she said. “Technology is vital for college and careers and it’s fun.” 

Fourth-grader Payton Dox agreed that it was exciting. 

“I signed up because it sounded fun,” she said. “We’ve been able to make a film as a group and we learned how to code our Spheros. It’s going to be a blast to do Makey Makeys. We’re already talking about next year and I can’t wait.”