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Hall County students present work at technology fair
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Flowery Branch students Tyler Johnson, a 12th-grader, and Jake Shewbert, an 11th-grader, show a desktop computer they built to judges Jon Lillie, Tom Lamb and Al List on Tuesday at the regional technology fair at North Hall Community Center in Gainesville. Johnson and Shewbert will be moving on to the state competition in March. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Not every high school student can build a computer from scratch or design a program to teach people how to play guitar.

In Hall County, students did this and more for the Regional Technology Fair on Tuesday, and today at the North Hall Community Center.

The fair, hosted by North Hall Middle School’s Earhart Edison Exploration Academy, is an opportunity for its first-place winners to earn a bid to the Georgia Educational Technology Fair in March.

“It’s really a great way to bring kids together that have common passions and interests,” said Michele Hood, co-director of the regional fair. “They can network and compete on a great level.”

Students in third through 12th grade can compete in the regional competition, according to Hood. Students are broken into divisions by grade levels, and each grade can enter into approximately 17 different categories.

The high school participants competed Tuesday at the community center, and the elementary and middle school students will participate today. Hood said this is the first year for high school students to participate and the second year for middle and elementary students.

“Our high school divisions have approximately 50 entries,” she said. “And our elementary and middle is just fifth through eighth grade this year, and they have almost 200 entries.”

Hood and her co-director, Kathy Mellette, invited community professionals to judge the competition. Judges not only help determine the first-place winners, but they give feedback and advice to take the projects to the state level.

Mellette said she was “blown away” by the contestants at the state level last year.

“There was a little girl in the third grade who had a dog-sitting business,” Mellette said. “She made a Web page, fliers, brochures. She won for the state, but it was amazing. And it’s that kind of thing; it’s real life stuff.”

Hood said last year they took 11 regional winners to the state competition, and seven won first place in their division at the state level.

Projects at the high school level include hardware design, Web application, digital video production, mobile app design, graphic design, 3-D modeling, programming and more.

Flowery Branch High School students Jacob Shewbert and Tyler Johnson entered the 11th- and 12th-grade hardware category. They designed and constructed a computer built into a modern, architectural wood-grain table.

“These high school kids are really very impressive,” Mellette said.

Rachel Cochran and Tyler Manders, also from Flowery Branch High School, entered the programming category. They designed a self-teaching guitar that uses lights and music to teach players how to play a song.

Cochran and Manders said their judge advised them to begin the process of patenting their technology.

“Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, they were all self-taught,” Cochran said. “If you think about how great they are at the guitar, this kind of says, ‘Here’s how to you can learn and you don’t have to depend on a teacher.’”

Scottie Manzo and Jordan Hoffman from North Hall High School entered the digital video production category. They created an introduction to the North Hall STEM Academy.

“We did the videography, collected photographs and did all the editing,” Manzo said.

Mellette said the Earhart Edison Exploration Academy was excited to host the fair and provide so many students an opportunity to take their projects and inventions to another level.

“Since we’re a STEM school, we thought it was a shame we didn’t have a technology fair here,” she said. “We just thought we ought to be doing this.”

Regional events