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Looking to the future

Ripley school’s Elite Club hosts technology show

March 10, 2016
By David Prenatt ( , Westfield Republican

RIPLEY - No more pencils, no more books... no more desks, no more paper, no more lockers, no more homework - is this the school of the future?

Many experts would agree, but whatever lies in store for education, the elementary students of Ripley Central School District are leading the way.

The seven members of Ripley's after school Elite Club demonstrated the district's focus on the future by planning and hosting a technology expo on Friday, March 4th. Professional vendors were invited to display products from robotics to computers to ergonomic desks that the district may choose to purchase.

Article Photos

Photos by David Prenatt
Antonia Scordo, of Erie I BOCES, demonstrates robots made at home by his daughter during Ripley Central School District’s recent technology expo.

Recently Ripley received a "Smart Schools" grant to finance improved educational technology and improved infrastructure to enhance learning and opportunities for students throughout the State.

However, explained Ripley Superintendent Dr. Lauren Ormsby, a Smart Schools grant requires that students have a voice in deciding how the funds are used. While many districts simply put students on committees to fulfill this requirement, Ormsby challenged the Elite Club with devising a plan to transform the school into a building of the future.

After touring the school and assessing its needs, members of the Elite Club set out to host a technology expo to familiarize all students and faculty members with the equipment available to take the school into the 2020s.

Kimberly Oakes, Director of Technology and Programs at Ripley, oversaw all preparations for the expo. Since the Elite Club only meets two days a week, Oakes said she had to take care some of the details, such as receiving e-mails from the vendors.

"I tried to think of the big picture and make sure we were covering everything. But I needed to step back and make sure I was empowering the kids," she added.

Oakes said she shared the e-mails from the vendors with the students. The vendors indicated their specific needs for the show, so the students could see how many details needed their consideration.

"For example, the students had to figure out how many power strips the vendors would need," Oakes said. "They did an awesome job with all of the interaction." She added that the faculty could have just asked the students to research the technology needed to improve RCS. Instead they were able to explore the available technologies firsthand and ask questions of the vendors.

Still, the members of the Elite Club were responsible for most of the preparation, Oakes said. They researched what a technology expo was; came up with questions for students to ask the vendors; made gift bags for the vendors, and created a floor plan. For instance, there were three vendors with robotics and the students decided to separate them because they knew robotics would be very popular, she said.

Not only did the Elite Club members gain organizational experience from their efforts, Oakes said, but they also strengthened many "soft skills," such as greeting, shaking hands, helping the guests with their bags, and offering them refreshments. "They basically assisted the vendors with anything that they needed," she said.

Curriculum specialist Erin Wheeler said she was greatly impressed with the work of the Elite Club members. "They were trying to get the experience as if you really went to a technology fair," she said. "They wanted to step up and do those things you would do as an adult.To be able to plan the logistics out for an event like this, these are things they will use throughout their lives."

The best representation of the experience, however, comes from the students themselves. As the seven members of the Elite Club gathered for lunch, their excitement and enthusiasm was evident.

Fifth grader Emily Hawkins said that planning the expo was not overwhelming because the group did it together. "As I went through this process I thought, this is going to be a big challenge for me, but it was not really all that stressful. It got pretty easy because we were all working together."

Third grader Paige Zarpentine noted, "It makes you feel special in a way to know that you did as much as you can, and everybody really enjoyed it."

Fifth grade student Elias Quintero said members of the Elite Club really worked well together. "We helped each other and we never gave up. We did this as a team.I liked having the experience to get to do this. We got this far by helping each other."

Fifth grader Spencer Duncan said working with the vendors helped improve her communication skills. "It made me feel like they (the vendors) understood what I had to say."

Sixth grader David Gard noted that the preparations weren't all toil. "There was a basket full of dodge balls, and while we were doing the set-up, we would throw them back and forth, so we made it fun."

The students found they could even deal with the last-minute crises that so often occur in events such as these. They set up for the expo the night before and then realized that soccer practiced was scheduled for the gym. So they took it all down and set it up again in the morning.

Participating vendors included Kensington, Dell, Acer, Exploring Robotics Erie 2 Chautauqua County BOCES, WNYRIC, Ergotron, and the Ripley CNC Club. Of course, the members of the Elite Club had their favorites.

Zarpentine said she was most impressed with Dash, a robot that students can use Apps to control and then program.

Rob Miller, who demonstrated circuitry for WNYRIC, said the students he met were extremely engaging. "The best part was they asked so many questions, even those not on their page," he said.

Yet maybe the greatest achievement of the day was the promise of a future for the students and the school. As Hawkins summed up: "I was very proud doing all this, knowing I was helping other people, and improving our learning skills."



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