Meadville Tribune

Local News

April 3, 2014

Youth talent on display at Tech Fair and Student Showcase

MEADVILLE — For the second consecutive year, the annual Tech Fair and Student Showcase hosted by Northwest Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications & Technology is going to the BOTS.

As RoboBOTS wage fierce battles to the “death” in their custom-built glass arena in Meadville Area Senior High School’s gym, nearby hallways will showcase the work of the next generation of technology aficionados.

RoboBOTS, the annual mechanical engineering challenge that pits teams of middle and high school students against one another in a competition that places a premium on violence, destruction and the skillful outmaneuvering of opponents through a combination of cunning, state-of-the-art engineering and steady hands, starts Saturday at 9 a.m. But between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., nearby hallways will be filled with young technology aficionados and their teachers engaged in what organizers describe as “a non-competitive celebration of the innovative and creative ways that students and teachers implement technology tools into learning.” Both events are free and open to the public.

Open to students from kindergarten through 12th grade, the 22nd annual Tech Fair and Student Showcase is expected to draw students and their teachers from throughout northwest Pennsylvania, said Ann Noonen, supervisor of elementary curriculum for Crawford Central School District.

The Northwest chapter of PAECT covers a geographic region consisting of a total of 62 school districts in Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango and Warren counties. The 2013 fair and showcase drew participants from as far away as DuBois.

Although the event had been traditionally staged in the Edinboro area, organizers decided in 2013 to see what would happen if they brought together two popular celebrations of technology innovation and use in one location. The results, according to Noonen, were good.

“Because the RoboBOT is well attended, this gives the students and teachers participating in the tech fair and student showcase an increased audience to share their good work,” Noonen said during a recent interview. “That’s exciting.”

The idea of PAECT combining with the northwestern Pennsylvania chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association, the industry trade group that has sponsored RoboBOTS for its entire eight-year history, originated with Tami Adams of NTMA.

A Meadville native who started her teaching career in 1981 and has been involved with the tech fair since its inception, Noonen is currently president of the statewide Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications and Technology. “It’s all cool,” Noonen said of one of her favorite annual events. “It’s a celebration of what teachers and students are doing with technology — and it’s a way to recognize those efforts.”

West End Elementary School teacher Sharon Godfrey, for example, whose students and the robots they’ve created are regular participants, encourages her students to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and kick it up a notch.

For visitors, Noonen has a single piece of advice: Ask the students to tell you about their work.

“When you watch the students’ facial expressions when they talk about what they’ve done, it’s really exciting,” she said with a smile.

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