Middle school students discuss Thinkabit

Botetourt County middle school students Rachael Huard (left), Amelia Sanford, Esther Philipps, and Justice Boitnott explained their Thinkabit Lab experience at the Botetourt County School Board meeting last Thursday.
Photo by Matt de Simone

By Matt de Simone

Contributing writer


Students from Read Mountain Middle School and Central Academy Middle School who recently participated in the Qualcomm Thinkabit Experience attended the monthly Botetourt County School Board meeting last Thursday.


Dr. Lisa Hamlin from the Center for Organizational and Technological Advancement (COTA) invited the middle school students to attend the free lab at the Roanoke Higher Education Center. The lab was open to all sixth graders that wanted to attend. COTA has spent the last 25 years promoting the development of schools, government, businesses, and nonprofit organizations.


The lab focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Thinkabit labs allow students to get creative with different tools like microcontrollers and Servos. Thinkabit labs feature group collaborations to solve realistic problems. Students may participate in a variety of activities.


Dr. Janet Womack, Botetourt County assistant superintendent for instruction, introduced the middle school students to the School Board and community members in attendance.


Justice Boitnott, a sixth grader from Central Academy, spoke about his experience learning about game design— a field of computer science and programming. He and other students learned to code the movement of robots.


Students can also learn new ways of creative safety devices at the Thinkabit lab. Esther Philipps, another Central Academy sixth grader, worked with other students to create an automated fire safety ladder. “We made a code that made the ladder operate properly,” Philipps explained. “I learned that coming up with new ideas and solutions using computer language is very hard, but if you strive to achieve your goal then you can do it.”


Read Mountain sixth graders Amelia Sanford and Rachael Huard worked in a group that created wireless headphones powered by data from cell phone towers so they and other students could listen to music. Sanford and Huard worked with coding that helped create wireless headphones powered by data from cell phone towers.


“The headphones are like your cars where you can listen to podcasts or the radio,” Huard explained. “I feel like working with groups to complete projects like these is very beneficial. The next fifth grade class should [participate].”


“I believe the takeaway here is that if you can put your mind to it, no matter how crazy it seems, it’s possible,” Sanford added.


The students then fielded questions from the board members who expressed their admiration for the Botetourt County sixth graders that attended the experience.


“I took away from the experience that Botetourt County schools take fun and interesting field trips that are also beneficial,” Philipps noted. “They share many opportunities to work with computers and technology in the Roanoke Valley.”


For more information on Qualcomm’s Thikabit Lab at the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center, visit: vrtc.vt.edu/thinkabit.html

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