Tech show comes to Front Royal Christian School

Front Royal Christian School students Caleb Arbuckle, 11, left, a sixth grader, and Matthias Costello, 9, center, a third grade student, look over a 3D printer shown by intern Zack Bruce during the school's first technology fair on Friday. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Parents visiting Front Royal Christian School on Friday afternoon got a Thanksgiving lunch and opportunities to see student projects, including the school’s first technology show.

Fourth and fifth grade history teacher Tina Paulisch said it was the first year elementary school students participated in the history fair, which takes place around the school’s Thanksgiving feast. For their projects, students give first hand biographies of historical figures – including biblical applications – in a final paper, poster display and presentation.

“The students actually pick a historical figure, they dress like that person and then they present in first person that information about that figure,” she said.

Students taking Informational Technology 101 showed off their expertise on various gadgets and topics in technology, from describing the 3D printing process to showing off a projected laser keyboard. Their presentations served as the first portion of a test in the class, while the second portion came from performance review sheets filled in by family members perusing the fair.

Liz Coffey, the school’s IT instructor, had previously held similar technology expos for her students when she taught at Riverfront Christian School, which did not open to K-12 students this year. New exhibits joining her lineup this year included a 3D printing pen belonging to one of the students, a hardware stress test and a sensor-guided Lego robot.

“We start them out with the Legos and the older kids with the basic clawbot kit and move into this kind of stuff later on,” Coffey said, gesturing to a large and complex VEX robot she carried.

Besides the exhibit presentations, students held an auction for kits and supplies that would be donated to the school from their wishlist. Items up for bidding would serve students in different grade levels and included HDMI cables, Lego robotics kits and a 3D printer. Coffey said many of the students – and faculty – were completely new to some of the tech.

“The students … they didn’t realize these things were available, I’m introducing all of this technology to them,” she said.

A new Raspberry Pi setup – a multi-use mini computer that can be applied to learn about operating systems and programming – was on display in the exhibition for kids to play with and one fully-furnished kit was on the wishlist. Coffey said it’s a great tool for learning about how the Linux operating system works.

“Linux is becoming more popular than it has been…and there are companies that are looking for techs that are familiar with that operating system,” she said.

Principal Lorraine Hewitt said that Coffey’s new IT curricula – students taking apart and reconstructing computers and learning from the ground up – lies in line with the school’s teaching methods.

“We’re a classical school and we love Socratic questioning, but we know that even to just stay at that level would be wrong, we had to take it to the next level,” she said. “That’s why it fits classical education, because it’s about taking what you have and knowing what you know and building on it.”

Having learned the basic introduction to hardware, Coffey’s 101 students will be able to continue enthusiastically exploring IT with the 102 class and apprenticeship program and a club in the works. Coffey said she chose to hold the tech show earlier in the year than usual as its own, brand new learning experience.

“Since everything’s so new to them, I’m really trying to show them why this class is important, we can actually have a lot of fun in this class, we can educate the public in this class and that technology doesn’t stop and they can continue learning with this class,” she said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com