The Arduino Project
College and Career Academy wins state Shark Tank Innovation Challenge
Posted on 08/31/2016
Jaylon Gonzalez and Trey Brooks, juniors at Coosa High and Floyd County Schools College and Career Academy work to turn on a light with an Arduino.
The future will be controlled by computers and those who understand the hardware and software technology will be leaders in the business world and the community.  Floyd County Schools College and Career Academy understands this reality and is seeking to give teens in their program a competitive advantage as students advance their education or find employment.  The efforts of the school earned them first place in the recent Shark Tank: Innovation Fund Challenge and a $10,000 prize to help the school implement what they are calling The Arduino Project.

The Arduino Project uses an Arduino which is a microcontroller that incorporates open-sourced software and hardware components and sensors to create an interactive tool that is easily programmed to perform a function.  The Arduino makes technology design more accessible to a larger number of people, uses C programming language and can be set-up to run simple one-step or multi-step tasks.

The state competition included the top six applications submitted from across the state in a "Shark Tank" style event where each participant pitched their project and how it could impact children to a team of judges.  The College and Career Academy team of Dr. Brian Swanagan, math and computer science teacher;  Leah Coach, math teacher; and Robina Gallagher, Science Department head at the College and Career Academy pitched the school's plan for training teachers to introduce students to the Arduino.  

The school used the prize money awarded for winning the competition to purchase sets of Arduino kits for math, science and pathway teachers to use the classroom to introduce high school students to the applications of Arduino.  Students are even using the kits to program useful devices to improve the school.  "We are programming lights to let students know the status of breaks or when to take breaks," stated Kris NIckerson, a junior at Model High and a student at the College and Career Academy. "The lights let you know when you go to break, when there is one minute left in a break and when you need to go back to class." Edwin Chavez, a Pepperell High junior and student at the College and Career Academy added, "This is excellent for our friends here who attend the Georgia School for the Deaf because they can't hear the bells."

Funds were also used in training as the College and Career Academy teamed with Berry College and Shorter University to train teachers in the system during pre-planning this school year.  Dr. Anthony Nichols, Shorter computer science professor; and Dr. Nadeem Abdul Hamid, computer science professor from Berry; worked with teachers to build a curriculum around the Arduino and their courses taught in Floyd County high schools.  Teachers will receive a monthly stipend for posting their work with students to a website that will allow other teachers to provide feedback and learn from the experiences of the first group of teachers trained in using the Arduino.  "The goal is for the teachers trained to use their improved understanding of software and hardware associated with the Arduino in at least two courses - three in some pathways - over the next year," stated Robina Gallagher.

The Shark Tank: Innovation Fund Challenge was coordinated by The Governor's Office of Student Achievement and GOSA will oversee the grant funding allocation to implement the project over the next two years. The competition was held on June 2 in Atlanta.  The Floyd County Schools College and Career Academy announced the award at a meeting of three committees of the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce at the school on Friday.

Photo: (left to right) Jaylon Gonzalez and Trey Brooks, juniors at Coosa High and Floyd County Schools College and Career Academy work to turn on a light with an Arduino.