At New Canaan High School Tuesday evening, folks were explaining how they created video games, websites, computers, 3D printers and animated movies, among other projects.
Those folks were not teachers or well-known technology experts. They were the technology leaders of tomorrow: New Canaan's own public school students.
Students from kindergarten to high school showcased their innovative projects during the eighth annual New Canaan Public Schools Tech Night.
This year, there were more elementary school children than ever before, according to Vivian Birdsall, a math instructional leader and the technology integrator for Saxe Middle School.
Some of those elementary school students, and even kindergartners, were showing the different iPad uses, such as for music recording and math exercises, and teaching about rainforest animals and how to use smart boards.
This year's event featured a flight simulator, website coding lessons, stop motion animation and computer programming.
There were also ninth-graders showing how they created video games, a fourth-grader who built a stirring machine, a seventh-grader who built a 3D LED cube that runs programmed animations sequences, among other cutting-edge projects.
Fifth-grader Henry Benton, 11, was showcasing not one, but three projects he and his friends created on their own: a digital camera; a website; and a 3D printer.
"I love making stuff from scratch," Henry said.
The most fun one to work on, he said, was the 3D printer. In March, Henry taught 3D certification classes at New Canaan Library.
Henry's mother, Jayne Benton, said he's been waiting to be part of Tech Night for years. She said he works during recess, after school and on weekends. "He does this on his own," she said.
Henry got a desktop 3D printer for Christmas, Benton said, but she thinks the one he built from scratch is a much better learning tool.
"It's great for him. He has to really work at it in order to get it to work," she said. "It's much more valuable than having the Cadillac one at home."
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Eighth-grader Lucas Quinn, 13, designed and built an electric go-kart. Birdsall said the project was time-consuming.
"He actually built this whole thing from scratch," Birdsall said. "He had to get insurance, he had to get approval, he had to do a lot to get to the point where he had permission and money to be able to do this ... It was a really big deal."
Lucas, who wants to be a mechanical engineer, said it was tough to find all the right pieces for the go-kart, but doing so actually helped him understand more about mechanics.
"The hardest part is to get things to match. If you don't have the right matching parts, it won't work," he said. "I actually learned about go-karts and cars themselves and how they work ... By looking at (all the pieces), I figured out how that would be implemented in a car."
Birdsall is leading the growth of the science, technology, engineering and math program, or STEM, in the district, said she hopes the program is built into the curriculum so students can work on such projects during school hours.
Robert Miller, director of technology for New Canaan Public Schools, said this year's event shows the importance of STEM for students in New Canaan. "You can see the integration that technology has with student learning as we develop (the STEM) program," he said.
One of the goals of the event, Miller said, is to show how technology enhances and encourages learning.
To participate in Tech Night, students must submit an application for review by a committee composed of faculty and staff. Student submit their project idea and describe its use of technology. Once accepted, teachers help students create their presentation as they teach others at Tech Night.
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