A new hands-on learning environment has students solve school data problems for real life applications.
When the colored dots on the computer monitor become scattered, Courtney Christensen knows there’s something wrong.
This alerts the 15-year-old sophomore at Abraham Lincoln High School that medical research data processed to Stanford University isn’t reaching its destination. And things can get even more confusing with all the flashing lights and colorful wires. “Everyone is running around trying to figure out what went wrong,” Christensen said.
But Kyla Kern, 16, a junior at Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson, said it’s simply a matter of isolating the issue.
“First you gotta know what the problem is,” Kern said. “If you don’t know what it is, you’re not going to solve it.”
Those students’ work is part of a new student-run data center for the Council Bluffs school district, which helps colleges store medical research data. An unveiling ceremony for the data center was Tuesday at Abraham Lincoln.
“They have an actual hands-on environment,” said Debra Robinson, a business and technology teacher at Abraham Lincoln. “They have to work together to troubleshoot and problem-solve.”
Students who participate in the district’s Emerging Technologies Academy are required to monitor servers for medical research data from the University of Washington, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany and Stanford University School of Medicine. The projects focus on analyzing proteins to better understand and find cures for Alzheimer’s disease, HIV, cancer and other illnesses.
The research projects store data on the district’s servers. It’s the students’ responsibility to repair the servers if something goes awry.
The district received financial and technical support from Google and Echo Group in Council Bluffs for the estimated $67,000 project. Officials took about six months to construct the center.
“The real benefit for kids is to work in a real world with high expectations,” said David Fringer, the district’s chief technology officer.
Chris Russell, an operations manager for Google in Council Bluffs, said the data center exposes students to real-world experience and gets them interested in technology careers.
“We’re a huge supporter of STEM education,” Russell said. “It helps (the students) understand we can do this.”
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