Annual EAST conference showcases students’ high-tech, community service pro

   

8/12/2013 4:58:32 PM

Hot Springs was recently filled with the sights and sounds of fresh, young minds hard at work. Nearly 2,000 students and educators from around the state and country convened at the convention center in Hot Springs from Feb. 27 to March 1 for the Environmental And Spatial Technology (EAST) Partnership Conference to share their programs.

Contributed by Bryant High School

By Jillian McGehee

LITTLE ROCK - Hot Springs was recently filled with the sights and sounds of fresh, young minds hard at work.

Nearly 2,000 students and educators from around the state and country convened at the convention center in Hot Springs from Feb. 27 to March 1 for the Environmental And Spatial Technology (EAST) Partnership Conference to share their programs. These programs use high-tech tools in the classroom to address issues in the students' communities.

The annual conference is held to showcase students' achievements and formally recognize their accomplishments. "Limits not included" served as this year's theme.

Not only do students learn the means to handle real-life problems, EAST labs also serve as a confidence builder.

Jon Haydon, a Bryant High School senior, noted the team-building skills he's developed because of EAST. "The way I've learned how to work with students and teachers, it's boosted my confidence level," he said. "There are so many opportunities available that I can't get in the classroom."

Haydon, along with Kelsey Hill, was a runner-up for the 3D Laser Scanning Proposal competition with his emergency access plan project, which entailed designing a 3-D layout of all the school district's buildings. Haydon, along with Justin Rowland, was also a finalist for the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute competition as well as a finalist for the Macrosystems Video Project competition.

In addition, Haydon, along with Emmie Archer, was a finalist for the Timothy R. Stephenson Founder's Award and the 2007 EAST Conference Difference Maker Awards.

Fred Burnett, the facilitator for the EAST lab at Bryant, said the program "gives kids exposure to real-world experiences."

The operation by which Burnett's lab operates is "a very similar situation they'll find when they go to work for someone." He says he tries to run it "like a work situation."

Another Bryant program includes the TRASH (Try Recycling in All the Schools' Heaps), where a recycling tote is placed in classrooms and the Saline County Regional Waste Management cooperates with the program to handle the recycled goods. Senior Blake Doles, who started the project, said 20,000 pounds of paper already have been collected since the program was initiated in 2005. Bryant EAST also recycles eye glasses in partnership with Lens Crafters to provide glasses to those in need.

"EAST is all about helping the environment or helping people in the community," Doles said.

A video project of the Bryant group will broadcast high school graduation this spring for students whose parents are stationed in Iraq. Haydon said a live feed will be set up following graduation "so they can talk to loved ones." The students have built a vehicle that resembles a go-kart, known as the Funding the Electric Vehicle and Eventually Racing (FEVER) project. It has served to enhance students' education in electronics, science, math, physics and project management. Going a top speed of 35 mph, having fun somehow made it into the mix of benefits as well.

EAST was founded in Greenbrier in 1996. Since then it has spread to schools across the state and nation.

Tim Stephenson, the founder, was walking around the last day of the conference perusing all the students' projects.

"It's absolutely amazing to see that the founding concepts and principles have stuck," he said. "They've stuck to them, and I'm tickled to see the kids so enthused. It's real rewarding that they're still focusing on the kids and doing something good for the community and educational infrastructure."

His wife, Leslie Stephenson, said, "We all have a gift, we just have to find it," and EAST helps find that gift in every student.

Charlie Mattei, a junior at Fountain Lake High School near Hot Springs, said EAST has opened her mind to new things.

And, because of EAST, she said, "I can feel comfortable going up and talking to people."

Fountain Lake received the Award of Excellence.

The students' projects include mapping the trails through Hot Springs National Park using GPS systems, an informative video showing children what to do in case of a school bus emergency, a documentary celebrating the Middle Fork of the Saline River and a new school Web site.

Junior Krystal Payne noted the film project with Hot Springs' sister city, Hanamaki, Japan.

The students have filmed visits from the sister city and are planning a visit to Japan this fall to complete the documentary.

The annual conference has taken place since 2000, not only to display the students' achievements, but also to celebrate the partnerships of education, government and business.

Matt Dozier, spokesman for the EAST Initiative, said, EAST "engages kids not only in education, but their futures. It engages them in the concept of community service." The conference serves to spread what each student learns with others.

One school raised $60,000 to build an animal shelter, he said, noting that everyone has the potential to accomplish such a project, and EAST helps bring out that potential.

Because EAST is different at every school in every classroom, it takes someone like James Boardman to act as a liaison for the Arkansas Department of Education. Boardman, the assistant commissioner for research and technology for the department, helps schools solve problems and find funding. He also works with the state Legislature to obtain grants for schools.

In Malvern, EAST students brought home some distinctions in the mapping and documentary film categories.

Facilitated by Mary Lavergne and Fran Bailey, Malvern High School projects included a truck show for the American Red Cross, which raised about $700; 8-foot poster for the Healthy Hot Spring County Coalition's kickoff on March 10; audio CDs to go along with library books for elementary school students; and mapping directions online for parents driving to and from sporting events.

This article was published Thursday, March 8, 2007.

Tri-Lakes, Pages 65, 69 on 03/08/2007

myEAST

Welcome, Guest

Login