East Lycoming School District aims to provide the tools of the future

HUGHESVILLE — East Lycoming School District’s Education Foundation is starting a capital campaign to raise funds for a project that both the district and the foundation believe will have endless educational potential.

The East Lycoming Education Foundation Technology Innovation Center is an effort by the district to provide a variety of learning tools to teachers and students that will do everything from simulating the human body in 3D to giving students the ability to work collaboratively with students across the world.

The project is being funded by the East Lycoming School District Education Foundation, a non-profit organization tasked with raising funds to help benefit the district, and is looking to raise $75,000 for the project through local donations.

The center will include three major additions to the district including, a Zspace lab, a robotics lab and a Nureva Span System. Each addition holds infinite potential as a teaching tool according to superintendent Michael Pawlik.

The Zspace, a virtual reality 3D computer, allows students to see what they are learning in a three dimensional space. Students in the Zspace lab will be able to pick apart the human brain and learn about each individual part, as well as take virtual tours through the arteries of a heart and create and test projects before doing them in real life.

IOANNIS PASHAKIS/Sun-Gazette East Lycoming School District board members see a Zspace three dimensional lesson for the first time, at a board meeting on Jan. 9.

“What I foresee in the future is that kids will take virtual reality field trips,” Pawlik said. “You aren’t talking about a book anymore, you are experiencing it. Technology has the ability to level the playing field for all students.”

According to Pawlik, the center was a product of the district trying to find new projects to fund that would best benefit their students.

“We sat down as an administration and said, ‘what can we do that nobody else has ever done that would be really great for our kids and we can get the foundation excited for?’ “ Pawlik said. “We went around to a number of districts to see if there were any ideas that we could use, and in many ways we were kind of frustrated that we couldn’t find anything in the scale or nature that we thought our kids deserved. So we really started from scratch and said let’s forget what other people are doing and lets see what we can do.”

Across the hall from the Zspace lab will be a robotics lab. The East Lycoming School District already has invested in robotics within the district and this lab will give students a space to work in past their class time, as well as introduce robotics to all grade and ability levels.

“We talk about changing the culture of the way technology is viewed in the community and our students,” Adam Creasy, director of technology, said. “All of these things at the surface level might look like it is for students who are into robots and engineering, but when you get a student involved in programming languages, even at the most basic level, you are teaching them problem solving.”

IOANNIS PASHAKIS/Sun-Gazette East Lycoming School District board members see a Zspace three dimensional lesson for the first time, at a board meeting on Jan. 9.

To Pawlik, the addition of a robotics lab means that more students will be interested in joining robotics competitions as well as putting their own time out of classes to see what robots they can make.

“The designation of a specific space is very important because you don’t build a robot in a class period,” Pawlik said.

The third addition to the district is a Nureva Span System. The Nureva system is an interactive smart board that will be mounted on a wall. With the system, students will be able to work on projects together, and can contribute to projects in real-time with other Nureva users across the world.

“If you are in one of our outer buildings, you have been with the same students in your class for seven years,” Pawlik said. “Now kids will be able to work with kids in other classes that they’ve never worked with before.”

For the district, all of these individual teaching tools will have an impact not just on how East Lycoming students learn, but how they seek knowledge on their own terms.

IOANNIS PASHAKIS/Sun-Gazette Board members Donna Gavitt and Michael Mamrak move a human heart across a three dimensional space on a Zspace at a board meeting on Jan. 9.

“We don’t know what the kids are going to do with this stuff,” Pawlik said. “But we are going to sit back and be amazed by it. That is one of the biggest changes in education is that the teachers are just as much learners as the kids are.”

As a campaign, the foundation is looking at the center as a major investment for the future and when deciding on what would make it into the project, chose projects that wouldn’t be obsolete in a year.

“It’s going to be something that will continue to grow, meet the needs of our students, and will enhance our community at large,” Geneva Pack, East Lycoming Education Foundation board of directors president, said.

The campaign has already reached over $20,000 of its goal through individual and business donations and the foundation is planning on finishing the campaign by June 30.

According to Pawlik, with funding finished in June, the entire center will be finished and ready for student use at the begging of the school year this August.

PHOTO PROVIDED Formerly a computer lab, the district will outfit the Zspace lab with multiple systems for students and teachers to use.

“We are firmly convinced that when people see exactly what it is that we are proposing, that we will be able to raise that $75,000,” Pawlik said.