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Saturday, Nov 01, 2014
Carrollwood News

Hillel Academy students create own tech projects


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TAMPA – In today’s world, it isn’t the kids who have to adjust to the ever-changing technological advances being made on virtually an hourly basis.

It is the teachers and the parents because the kids are way ahead of the learning curve.

At Hillel Academy, the middle school students are learning technology now that didn’t exist when their parents were in school. Kids who aren’t even old enough to drive yet are building cars. Kids whose parents grew up learning penmanship are now learning how to tear down an old computer and completely rebuild it. They are learning how to make robots and getting a head start on what is sure to be an interesting century with all of the advancements being made on a daily basis.

Mike Gamson is the information technology director at Hillel. He knows his stuff, but he admits that there are times his middle school students teach him things.

He brings an interesting perspective to his classes. He encourages them that it is OK to fail.

“I teach them to dream and come up with ideas,” Gamson said. “If they don’t work, that’s a lesson in itself for them.”

Hillel students aren’t competing with other schools; they are simply daring to be great at what they do.

Sixth-graders Molly Orlick and Madeleine Smith built cars as part of their yearlong project. The cars are plastic, run down a ramp, and the pair has plans for bigger and better. They are using a 3-D computer to change their cars into something more than just matchbox cars.

“We learned how to drill and how to come up with a concept for a ramp,” Madeleine said. “It’s been fun and next year we want to do even more.”

Gamson told the kids at the start of the school year to come up with ideas no matter how difficult they might be. He’s been a guiding force behind the class and admits he doesn’t know everything.

Take seventh-graders Max Weiner and Benjamin Axel. They want to take it to the next level. They decided to get a VEX robot, tear it apart, and make a new one. Not only did they build a new robot, they made gloves that they could use to control the robot from a distance. Max goes to a summer camp at MOSI where he learned a lot about technology and the future.

Are the kids a bit afraid of what all of today’s technology might bring to the world?

“The schools are going to be different with a lot more online teaching,” Madeleine said. “It will be better but a lot different.”

“There will be a lot of Google glasses,: Benjamin said. “It might be like you see on ‘The Terminator.’ I don’t think it will be bad but it might be scary.”

Madeleine took a larger view of today’s changing world. She is concerned that robots are going to take the place of humans in the workplace.

“We have people doing jobs that can be done faster by computers she said. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad.”

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