Wellington Secondary student Guilherme Malachias demonstrates virtual reality during the school’s first-ever tech week, an event to showcase technology to students and teachers. TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/News Bulletin

Technology put in hands of students in high school’s first tech week

Students could check out robotics, 3-D printing and virtual reality at event

Students at Wellington Secondary had the chance to pet a robot dog in virtual reality, experience the magic of green screens and compete in classic video games at the school’s first tech week.

Students and teachers had a chance to explore technology at tech week as well as test virtual reality equipment anticipated to arrive at the Nanaimo high school next year.

“Tech week is all about showing students and staff what technology is available in the school, then showing them how it can then be integrated into different subjects and different areas – and make it fun, make it available and accessible for them,” said robotics teacher and event organizer Mike Dang.

Tech week, which ends today, June 8, has been a tie-in to applied design, skills and technology in the new B.C. curriculum with the idea being for kids to not only learn technology but design and think about what people need, brainstorm ideas, come up with prototypes, test and reflect, according to Dang.

Students could take part in different activities all week, including construction and launch of paper rockets, silkscreen and 3-D printing, robotics and a green screen photo booth. There were also student-created video games and borrowed virtual reality rigs from Ladysmith Secondary School where youths could experiment on robots in a virtual lab or play fetch with a robot dog in an Italian courtyard.

Teacher Durwin Pye, another tech week organizer, said students in Ladysmith are using virtual reality to create 3-D visual art in a virtual world. One student moulded clay into a “fancy knot design” which he then exported and printed in 3-D so he had it in his hand by the end of the day, said Pye, who points to the educational value of students expressing themselves creatively.

But he also said the technology can be used to take kids on tours that budget-wise the school could never do and the tool can lead to more technical use such as in computer-aided design and drafting.

“Most of the kids I talked to yesterday after they’d gone through it were saying that they’re definitely looking forward to getting it here for themselves to use on a regular basis,” said Pye, who hopes the school will get virtual reality rigs in September.

Jordan Sabourin, 17, was in the computer lab overseeing a Tetris competition Tuesday. Normally the game can only be played on a classic Nintendo entertainment system, which was plugged into a TV in the 1980s, said Sabourin, adding he programmed an emulator so the old games can be played on computers in the same way.

“It’s a great way to cherish the past and legacy as well as show [students] kind of cool coding technologies that are coming up in the future,” he said.

Shawn Jung, 17, said tech week is a great way to show off new technology.

“Honestly half the people who came here didn’t even know we had this stuff,” said Jung. “Even if they knew about it they thought it was a premium and that you had to be in a class to use it, but now anyone can use it.”

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