GISD, TI and UTD partner to pilot after-school program

Webb Middle School and Sachse High School students are among the first in the world to use a new technological tool, thanks to an after-school program pilot. The campuses, Texas Instruments (TI) and the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) teamed up to launch TI-Innovator clubs this fall.

“We have established a very good working relationship with TI and UTD,” said GISD Technology Integration Coordinator Jasna Aliefendic. “The after-school clubs are programming, engineering, science and math-based. Students are using the new TI-Innovator controller board, which was just released to the public Sept. 12, to solve real-world problems.”

Created for classroom use, the TI-Innovator is the medium that breathes life into code written in a Ti-Nspire calculator. The code, or programming, controls inputs and outputs connected to the Innovator.

“Club members will discover that writing programs to control sound, color, motors, sensors, etc. is not as complicated as it might seem, and it can be fun,” Aliefendic explained. “Along the way, students will also learn about computer science concepts—like variables, loops, inputs and outputs—that will be useful for any computer programming they do in the future.” 

Once a week for 10 weeks, UTD grad students presented club members with challenges and guided them to solutions. Students at Webb created nightlights, electronic musical instruments and traffic control systems. Students at Sachse worked on a water irrigation system that could be used in Zimbabwe.    

“The kids are so excited about this experience and about programming,” said UTD student Gajanan Golegaon. “These guys and girls are getting great exposure to computer science, so this is going to help them a lot.” 

“I really like coding on computers and I find it interesting that you can manipulate things to do what you want,” added SHS junior and club member Theresa Finley. “It is really exciting to be one of the first to use the TI-Innovator. It is something that you will eventually be able to brag about one day.” 

Although the clubs have technically ended their pilot run, students were so engaged, they are planning to meet in January.

See Sachse’s club at work in an NBC 5 feature online.