Derek Ratchford leads the EAST program at Sonora Middle School in Springdale, Arkansas. This year, the program was named the Overall Founder’s Winner for best program in the country based on the 3 categories of project sophistication, student growth, and community involvement. “We have kids that are coding, 3D printing, building virtual reality, mapping, building augmented reality, and even laser cutting…all for someone in our community,” said Ratchford. In his student-run classroom, students design their own team-building activities, run brainstorming sessions, and even teach themselves how to use the tech available to them.
The community-based products that the students are producing are astounding! This year, the program saw a student teach himself how to 3D scan and 3D print in order to print/build his own prosthetic leg. The result? The student making the news and being flown to Florida to receive an athletic leg for free from one of the best doctors in the country. Other projects include the 3D printing and coding of a medication dispenser for a second grade student, a diabetes management system specifically for English Language Learners, a Raspberry Pi weather control station that monitors for black ice along the bus routes and uploads data to a map for the school district’s transportation department, and augmented reality handprints located at the Child Abuse Center that tell stories of a child that has been abused so that kids don’t feel alone.
Ratchford claims that it’s not just about the projects. “We also help with community events like event prep/planning and thank you gifts for the Dream Big Gala, as well as serve as the media team to live stream events like school functions and even large events like the NWA TechFest and the Hogeye Marathon.” Follow @EASTatSMS on Facebook to stay in the know as their student’s lead the way in personalized learning.