By: Mary Herschelman, Hillsboro Journal-News
Nearly 20 students at Hillsboro Junior High School could hardly contain their excitement as they waited for the first session of a pilot technology program to begin after school on Monday, Feb. 4.
Former Hillsboro resident Trisha Degg, who now works for the Illinois Technology Association in Chicago, has been working hard for the past year to bring this pilot program to students in the Hillsboro School District.
Her company launched a foundation, TechForward
to support STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math)education in three ways.
"We were looking at kindergarten through 12th grade programs, diversity groups and underserved communities," Degg said.
The program at Hillsboro Junior High School has been designed especially for middle school students to encourage careers in STEM.
"Studies have shown that high school is too late to introduce STEM careers," Degg said. "We want to introduce these students to all the things technology touches and introduce them to new careers. What better place to start then where I grew up?"
The first session focused on robotics. HJHS teacher Kelli White said a new group was formed at HJHS just for this pilot program. Students named it Tech Ambassadors, and student Kyle Butler is the president. Students had input into what the lesson would be about.
Jason Dornbush of the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago led the robotics-based class. He brought with him four Robotis Mini robots, which were controlled by a tablet. The robots were designed to play soccer, but had lots of interesting features like breakdancing and headstands. Each student had a chance to try to control the robot first-hand. The computer lab filled with giggles as students watched the robot break out its best dance moves.
This lesson was the first of several monthly lessons coming to Hillsboro as part of the TechForward initiative. The pilot program is 100 percent funded by TechForward and the Illinois Tech Association.