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placeholder January 19, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA
Catholic Schools Week

Pupils at the School of the Madeleine will be building computers.
Courtesy photo

Business partnership at Madeleine
helps pupils become engineers

A technology company is partnering with Berkeley's School of the Madeleine to bring engineering into the school's curriculum.

Piper, a start-up gaming company, is designing kits that allow students to assemble their working computers and begin their journey into creating lights, motors and do-it-yourself hardware.

Principal Kenneth Willers describes Piper this way, "Think: Erector-Set meets Minecraft. Where you build in the real world and create in the virtual."

Willers met the co-founders of Piper at an EdTech Summit, hosted by BrightBytes, a technology company that measures the impact of technology on learning and education, this fall in San Francisco.

When he saw the kits at the summit, Willers thought, "Our students would love this. So many of our students are doing Minecraft anyway, let's bring what they're doing at home into the learning that's happening at school."

Soon Piper and the School of the Madeleine formed an innovative partnership. "Where beta-tester and student engineer become one," Willers said. It is an opportunity for pupils to experience engineering while helping the developers create their product.

On Nov. 21, Piper's founders, Mark Pavlyukovskyy, 23, and Alex Stokes, 24, brought their "build-it-yourself" engineering kits to the Madeleine for beta testing. Eighteen Madeleine pupils, ranging from third to eighth grade, formed cohorts of three to a kit. Each cohort embarked on a collaborative and student-directed learning experience without any instructions or guidance from the founders.

"I was amazed at the engagement levels of the students," remarked Joseph Nagel, eighth grade teacher.

After the visit, Pavlyukovskyy, sent this e-mail, "Working with your kids at the Madeleine actually really inspired us. Your kids not only completed the entire game level we were testing with them, but gave us really valuable feedback that we are currently incorporating into our platform. We really enjoyed working with you and Ms. Lisa Anthony and your children are really blessed to have such enthusiastic mentors."

The Madeleine continues to partner with TechEd companies and Piper is the latest partnership to date. "If we want our students to thrive in the 21st Century, we have to provide them with opportunities of self-directed learning," Willers said. TechEd companies like Piper, inspire students to own and initiate their own learning while developing the critical thinking skills around engineering concepts.

The STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) curriculum at the Madeleine is literally out of the box teaching, Willers said.

"If these types of partnerships continue," Willers said, "I'm confident our students will be building computers as part of our curriculum — and that is really cool."

 
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