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West Hall teacher up for national technology award
West Hall High School teacher Joel Aquino uses a balloon to explain a static electricity experiment. - photo by Tom Reed

Joel Aquino, a science teacher at West Hall High School, has been named a finalist in this year’s national competition for Cable’s Leaders in Learning Awards.

Since 2005, Cable’s Leaders in Learning Awards, administered by the Cable in the Classroom education foundation, have recognized educators who demonstrate vision and innovation in and out of the classroom using technology. Cable in the Classroom provides thousands of schools with complimentary educational cable programming and Internet resources and is an advocate for media literacy education.

Aquino was named one of 47 finalists for the national award.

He was nominated in the Cable Partnerships for Learning category and is competing against 12 other teachers across the country for a $3,000 prize, an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., and a June awards ceremony luncheon in honor of the winners.

According to a news release from Cable’s Leaders in Learning Awards, Aquino was named a finalist because he frequently uses online video and educational Web sites to teach students physics lessons.

Aquino said in addition to other Web sites, he uses YouTube to initiate physics lessons. He said seeing science in action in the real world gets students revved up about pursuing careers in science.

"In order for our country to progress very well, to go to the next stage of technology, we need to entice them (students) to love science, math and engineering," Aquino said.

In one lesson, he said he teaches students about American political cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg, who is best known for his complex machines that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways.

Aquino said he shows students Japanese Rube Goldberg contest championship machines on YouTube, and then provides them with materials to build their own Rube Goldberg roller coaster machines in the hallways of West Hall High School.

After winding tubes from floor to ceiling, students use a marble as a medium to turn on an iPod or Christmas lights.

Atlanta teacher Roy Lander is the only other award finalist in Georgia. The three national winners will be announced in May.

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