2015 OWL TechFair Showcases Young Talent

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From graphic design to movie-making to robotic demos and contests, OpenWorld Learning (OWL) students showcased their best projects for the public—and earned some nifty prizes, too. The 6th annual OWL TechFair featured work that could simultaneously dazzle, as well as demonstrate that these youngsters are on the road to bright futures.

Getting ready for a pre-competition tryout

Getting ready for a pre-competition tryout

This year’s event featured projects created by youngsters from Denver, Aurora and Jefferson County schools. Elementary students put together an e-portfolio of computer projects focusing on games and web work, while middle-schoolers concentrated on robotics, movie-making and graphic design. Overall, students were able to integrate computer technology along with art, along with reading, writing and math concepts. An OWL rep said that 47 percent of students were female, 87 percent are eligible for reduced-lunch programs and 53 percent use English as a second language.

Between staff, volunteers, parents and supporters, and bright minds from grades 3 to 8, almost 600 people participated in the fair held on Saturday, April 25, at Industry Denver. The date coincided with Comcast Cares Day, so around 100 volunteers represented the event sponsor. Stella Peterson, of Stella Marketing + PR, and State Rep. Joe Salazar served as co-emcees for the awards presentations, and OWL’s CEO, Lea Ann Reitzig, as well as Comcast rep Macio Alston also addressed the crowd.

Co-emcee Stella Peterson (left) with CEO Lea Ann Reitzig

Co-emcee Stella Peterson (left) with CEO Lea Ann Reitzig

Tech Challenge Winners:
Eagleton Elementary School

Robo Challenge Winners:
1st place: Giselle Florencio (Kepner Middle School)
2nd place: Tevita Fifita & Jacob Woods (Aurora Vista Peak Exploratory School)
3rd place: Adamma West (Aurora Vista Peak Exploratory School)

OpenWorld Learning was founded by Chris Myers in 2000 to provide a fun and challenging after-school educational program centered on teaching advanced computer technology to Denver area students. Its mission statement: to support children’s school success by tapping the power of digital technology and peer teaching to develop leadership and ignite a love of learning. One local publication honored OWL as Denver’s top non-profit of 2012. Programs offered include OWL Summer Tech Camp, with scholarships available for students on free and reduced-lunch programs. For more information, please visit: http://www.openworldlearning.org

Technology Student Style

Conversation, collaboration and keystrokes amounted to powerful displays of digital savvy and creativity at the 5th annual OpenWorld Learning (OWL) Tech Fair. This year’s fair was the biggest ever for the organization and held the added surprise of technology competition that captivated its attendees.

Teams from eight OWL elementary schools – Archuleta, Colfax, Edgewater, Eagleton, Ellis, Garden Place, Munroe and Vista PEAK – showed off their MicroWorlds skills during OWL’s Tech Fair Tech Challenge. With quick thinking, the teams worked to respond to a specific challenge. Round One’s Task: Create your school’s mascot. Teams of three collaborated on the steps to take to create their school’s character on screen. Each contributed to the discussion and design of the final product, while judges poised behind them listened to the talk and scored teams not only on technical abilities but also team cooperation. As an added bonus to all the learning, Comcast generously donated event T-shirts as a keepsake for every student who participated in the Tech Challenge.

Melanie Moreno, Pathway Director at Vista PEAK Exploratory echoed what the judges saw firsthand, “We’ve had OWL for two years and our kids are learning programming, as well as critical thinking and problem solving skills and collaboration skills that are so important.”

Next, came the newly installed Robo Challenge. This live LEGO Robotics competition put robots built and operated by students from three OWL middle school sites through the paces to see which mechanical masterpiece performed the best. It was a crowd favorite for the day.

Parents Martha and Brain Cook smiled brightly as they talked about OWL’s impact on their daughter Jazmyne’s life,

“It’s a great program,” they reported in unison. “She’s learned so much it’s amazing. And she loves it.”

“It’s great to be with friends who are interested in doing this,” said Leslie, a shy 6th grader at Kepner Middle School, with a gesture to the elaborate stop motion film set she created. “I loved spending time making my set.”

The event also added a resource fair. Representatives from a variety of community organizations educated parents about healthy eating, resources via Denver Parks & Recreation, Comcast and YMCA, among others. Ansley Young and Pam Peters from Spark It Studios, a company offering art camps for kids and adults, found it a great way to connect with an audience interested in expression.

“It’s a great event! We are meeting lots of kids who are interested in the camps we offer. They are interested in art and technology,” said Ansley Young, founder of Spark It Studios.

In the cafeteria, Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) offered the chance for students to operate “Marvin,” the 4 foot, 7 inch, 120 pound robot designed and built in six weeks by a team of 20 students from the school. “It’s a blast to be here,” agreed students of Team DSST.

OWL’s mission is support children’s school success by tapping the power of digital technology and peer teaching to develop leadership and ignite a love of learning. Founded in 2000 by Chris Myers, the organization aims to provide fun and challenging after-school educational programs centered on teaching advanced computer technology to Denver area students. Since its inception OWL has served more than 5,000 students with over 550,000 contact hours.

The reviews were unanimous: OWL’s Tech Fair was a great way to spend a tech-centered Saturday. It may just be the place computer history will record the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs got their start.

Hats off to all who participated! Below is a list of those who walked away with prizes:

EPortfolio Elementary Prizes: Third Prize: Sparkfun kit; Second Prize: Headphones; First Prize: Galaxy Tablet

Contest Winners

Art & Animation: 3rd Place: The Penguin That Got Lost, by Cheyenne Mitchell – Ellis Elementary; 2nd Place: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover, by Miriam Qblia – Ellis Elementary; 1st Place: Friends, by Kyetya Ri – Ellis Elementary

Programming: 3rd Place: Baby Mario, by Daniel DeHerrera – Colfax Elementary; 2nd Place: St. Patrick’s Day, by Fatima Chavez – Munroe Elementary; 1st Place: The Legend of Zelda, by Justin Le – Ellis Elementary

Writing & Research: 3rd Place: Recyclones Unleashed, by Tyson English – Archuleta Elementary; 2nd Place: Be Yourself, by Shanda Hines – Ellis Elementary; 1st Place: Megalodon, by Jazmyne Cook – Colfax Elementary 

Integrated: 3rd Place: Babies!, by Natalia Mendoza Ramos – Colfax Elementary; 2nd Place: Easter Day, by Suvd Jargalsaikhan – Ellis Elementary; 1st Place: Swimmy Fish, by Jared Vargas – Ellis Elementary

EPortfolio Middle School Prizes: Third Place: Sparkfun Kit; Second Place: Snap Circuit Kit; First Place: Sphero Ball Robot

Contest Winners:  

Graphic Design: 3rd place: Legacy and XBOX Game & Cover, by Isaiah Albright – Kepner; 2nd place: I.L.F., by Giovani Guzman – Vista Peak; 1st place: Jordi & Julian’s Logo Design Co., by Jordi Lahowetz & Julian Robinson – Vista Peak

Stop Motion Animation: 3rd place: My Family Story, by Jhoalen Duran – Vista Peak; 2nd place: Painting, by DJ Cox – Vista Peak; 1st place: The Mystery Injury, by Leslie Pinedo-Delgado – Kepner

Live Competition Winners:

TECH Challenge 3rd place: Eagleton Eagles (Eagleton Elementary); 2nd place: Archuleta Gigabytes (Archuleta Elementary); 1st place: Ellis Einsteins (Ellis Elementary)

ROBO Challenge: 3rd place: Big Fat Pigs (Vista Peak Exploratory 6-8); 2nd place: Mate Ma’a (Vista Peak Exploratory 6-8; 1st place: Jackalopes (Kepner Middle School)