Local students design electronic flash cards

Program to provide electronic flash cards to classrooms

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Instead of taking a break for the summer, several South Fayette High School and Middle School students are learning how to design electronic flash cards that teachers in the district will be able to use in the classroom this school year.


Student Ben Kenawell, who will be a senior, is the designated project manager for the flash card project. He, along with about nine other students in grades 7-12, have been getting up early all summer to meet in the library at South Fayette Middle School to work on the project.


Aileen Owens, director of technology at South Fayette said right after school ended for the summer, the students started meeting. The group meets from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday.


“You’ve never seen such patient teachers,” Owens said of the senior students working on the project. “Upperclassmen helping underclassmen is great. It keeps the younger students motivated.”


Kenawell said the project started last year with an internship with a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. The group uses the base flash card program studied last year and has made it even more functional and designed it specifically for teachers to use in the classroom.


“We pretty much rebuilt it from the ground up,” Kenawell said. He added that the flash cards can also be adapted to the district’s common core standards for learning.


The flash card program uses pen-based technology, Kenawell said, which uses a pen or stylus on a tablet instead of a keyboard and mouse on a computer – the technology is also called “inking ability.”


Owens is working on writing a grant to obtain funds to purchase Microsoft Surface tablets so that teachers can use the flash cards with the pen-based technology. Kenawell added that the group is working on a way of adding a typing feature to the flash cards so that they will be able to be used in more classrooms.


Because the program is Windows-based, the inking ability cannot be used on Apple devices. The inking ability is similar to what is used when one signs a credit card reader at a store.


Once finished, Kenawell said teachers will be able to use a program like PowerPoint to make flash cards for their classrooms. The student team is also working on adding video and audio to the flash cards.


Rising senior Jason Cillo said he is “glad to be a part of this project.” He said he and Kenawell have been friends for a long time, so it’s been good working with him. He wants to go into computer engineering as a career.


Kenawell’s younger brother, Adam, who will be in seventh grade in the fall, is the youngest member of the team.


“I like doing the coding,” he said, adding that his older brother has helped him along the way. “He’s made it a lot easier.”


He said his favorite thing to do is put the pictures on the flash cards.


Nick Wilke, who will be a freshman in the fall, said he will probably end up using the program he helped to create when he gets back into the classroom. “I’ll be like, I helped make this,” Wilke said as he worked on adding video to the flash cards, which will also work for online schools.


Rising freshman Matt Antintis said he wanted to be a part of the group because “It seemed like an easy way to get experience with programming. I always wanted to code.”


“I knew it was going to be a good experience,” said rising freshman Sam Cohen. He said he is taking a class on the subject in the fall and added, “I like creating things. It’s good experience to learn the basics in coding.”


Cohen added that he doesn’t mind coming to school in the summer. “I’m taking a geometry class, too,” he said.


Owens said in the fall, a few of the senior members of the group will be teacher’s assistants in the intermediate school. Because the high school dismisses earlier, the students will be able to go over to the intermediate school for the last period of the day to help teachers there teach coding to the younger students.


The team hopes to take its flash card application to market in the fall. Owens said South Fayette will be one of the only schools she knows of that will have a student-produced app available to the public. She said when it’s released it will be free, and anyone will be able to use it to make flash cards in order to study better.


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