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Canyon Creek Students Show Off Technical Know-How

three students create a structure out of cardboard to showcase out in the hall of canyon creek elementary. The giant keyboard involved a lot more work than the two fourth-graders from Canyon Creek Elementary School were expecting.

Megan Alexander, 10, and Kate Farnham, 10, spent six weeks putting together the massive collection of black-and-white keys. Inspired initially by a scene from the 1988 comedy “Big,” the pair wanted to build a piano that would be playable not with the fingers, but with the feet.

In the end, it took 16 speakers, seven laptop computers and oversized keys made of tin foil and paper. The duo debuted their project during Canyon Creek’s “If These Walls Could Talk” event on Feb. 19, a mini-expo that saw 27 fourth-graders showing off technical marvels built out of simple elements.

The work was worth it for Alexander and Farnham. The two students plan to submit their project to an even larger event.

“We’re going to submit it to the Cardboard Challenge,” Alexander said, referring to the annual district-wide event funded by the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation that encourages the best kind of innovation from students of all grade levels.

“Their challenge was to make the walls talk. They made prototypes, tried it out and found out how to make it better ... Every one of these students has been successful, and there’s been huge parental support.”

-- Canyon Creek Elementary School Teacher Stacy Curry

That kind of encouragement was the core mission of the Canyon Creek event, according to teacher Stacy Curry.

“The object was to make the walls come alive,” Curry said, adding that students used circuit boards called MaKey MaKeys, wires, programming know-how and alligator clips to build a wealth of projects that ranged from talking benches to electronic instruments. “Every child in here came up with their own idea. These are all their creations and their coding.”

The circuit boards, wires and alligator clips were part of students’ FOSS (Full Option Science System) kits, and they lent for a high degree of creativity and diversity when it came to the projects. Alexander and Farnham built a giant, walkable piano. Another group put together a high-tech “living room,” a space that featured sounds clips triggered by chairs, cans and tables. Savannah Swensen, 9, built a “greeting door,” a mat placed in the entryway of the school that offered encouraging messages of welcome as soon as visitors crossed the threshold.two students programming a wall that is connected to a laptop and speakers that would respond to the keyboard.

“Their challenge was to make the walls talk … They made prototypes, tried it out and found out how to make it better,” Curry explained, adding that the process aligned with the Cherry Creek School District’s Teaching and Learning Cycle. Curry worked with district STEM coordinator John Pierce and Technology and Learning Coach Keli Kinsella to make sure the event ran smoothly. “Every one of these students has been successful, and there’s been huge parental support.”

That network offered all of the 27 fourth-graders the resources and creative freedom to create their own technical marvels. It allowed students like Alexander and Farnham to set their engineering sights high, and think of further opportunities down the road to show off their skills.

Posted 2/25/2016 12:57 PM
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