ITA Brings the Fun & Games to Emerson Elementary

On April 26, 2016, Information Technology Academy (ITA) took ITA Madison Student Ambassadors to Emerson Elementary School for a Road Show. The annual event aims to engage younger students through technology-based projects, and it is an opportunity to expose the elementary school community of students, teachers, and administrators to ITA’s program and mission.

Upon suggestion of ITA graduate Jacob Benford, for the first time in this program’s history, elementary school students played a critical part in determining which projects would be created for the Road Show. Earlier this year, the third-graders from Emerson teacher Brenda Fujikawa’s class and high school-aged Ambassadors exchanged letters to generate technology-based game ideas. Under the guidance of ITA’s Technology Services Manager A.J. Daughtry Krill and ITA Technology Instructors, the ITA Ambassadors worked hard over several months to create 15 educational computer games that brought to life the elementary school students’ ideas.

Tuesday’s Road Show was an opportunity for ITA Ambassadors to reveal their projects to the elementary school students. Eleven classes were able to attend the Road Show throughout the day, and students had the opportunity to interact with each project. The computer games included an artificial intelligence-based program in which students could chat with a robot, educational games based on answering math and science problems correctly, a two-person competitive Pacman-like game, audio-visual experiences, and more. Throughout the day, the Emerson students could be seen running from game to game with smiles on their faces.

Not only was the program a fun learning experience for Emerson’s students, but ITA Ambassadors also learned from the day. Some ITA Ambassadors—the designers of the games—could be seen making real-time tweaks to their programs based on player feedback. All ITA Ambassadors learned how to explain both the rules of their game and how they created the game. ITA Ambassadors also helped plant the seeds for the future, for example, by asking whether Emerson students could imagine making computer games like the ones created for this event. The collaboration and energy between the high school and elementary school students over technology was inspiring!

The third grade class also created a ballot box in which each student cast a vote for the project he or she thought was “most interesting.” The third-graders who envisioned the computer games will reveal a winner on May 7. In our view, all the students were winners. We congratulate them on their hard work and successful collaborations!

You can find out more and catch a glimpse of the day here (minute 8:54), as captured by WISC-TV Madison’s “News 3 at 6” program.