Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


February 27, 2014

From support squad to innovators

Tech-savvy students writing program for new high school lab

Andover High School teachers with technology woes worry not. Your students are here to help.

A student-run help desk has been one of the successes of the high school’s new Innovation Lab that was launched this school year.

An alternative to study hall for students with technological prowess, the lab was created on the heels of the district dedicating substantial funds to the purchase of new computers for staff, Daniel Downs, school technology integration specialist, said.

“We got all these new MacBooks for the teachers, and we knew there was going to be a need for supporting the teachers with the new technology,” Downs said.

But the help desk isn’t just about students being at the faculty’s beck and call to provide tech support.

The new course offering includes an educational component built around a silicon-charged core, with each student developing and completing semester-long projects, Downs said.

Viabhav Patel, 16, has spent his time outside tech calls using one of his favorite video games from home to demonstrate how digital worlds can make tangible impacts in the real world.

It wasn’t what he originally expected when he signed up for the class.

“When I first heard of the class, I thought it was going to be me helping out everybody else with what they don’t know about computers,” Patel said.

As the school year moved forward and tech support calls waned, he dove into one of his passions at home — the video game Minecraft — and began exploring its capacity to improve lives beyond the digital world.

“Minecraft has inspired people to learn about animations, coding, music and even starting a business,” he wrote on a blog post for the Innovation Lab. “Minecraft is not just a game, but a huge learning tool for anyone with the passion to further their goals.”

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