SYRACUSE — Katlyn Wireman, a Wawasee High School student, enjoys music and has been in the band. She is also interested in web development and decided to enroll in Power Up, a course offered for the first time during the 2019-20 school year by the Pathways Cooperative.
Power Up is an electronics and computer programming class taught by Nate O’Connell, who also teaches math at the high school. There are currently eight Wawasee students and three from West Noble High School taking the full year course.
In a world saturated with computers and electronics, O’Connell said the intent of the class is to give students “a good base knowledge” of computer programming, electronics and electrical concepts. Students will learn computer programming concepts and how to use them and electrical concepts such as voltage, currents, wiring and soldering.
Among the many career applications are being a video game designer or a computer software programmer, just to name two. A knowledge of electronics is helpful for a computer programmer.
In addition to building and flying drones earlier in the school year and extensively using sensors and robots, O’Connell talked about two of the projects a few of his students completed. Wireman built a LED cube light that changes to the beat of music.
West Noble students Isaac Flora and Nathan Mast used an electrical outlet strip and relay and computer programming board to design a lighting device activating when a person claps their hands twice.
Wireman said the cube she designed flashes random colors to different music beats. Through a process of trial and error, she learned if the music is too loud “it makes the lights flash really crazy.” She added, “it took a while to find the right mic” to accurately detect the sound of the music.
Flora said he is interested in electronics and wiring things and he enrolled in the class “to better explore what I want to do,” adding, “I want to learn to create things.”
Mast is interested in mechanical engineering and wants to work with electric vehicles. Taking the Power Up class is a way to “kick start” the process of learning about electronics.
The duo noted computer programming was the hardest part of their project. Coding was difficult and a lot of minor things went wrong. The device had to be programmed to recognize certain patterns.
They used an Arduino programming board, one that is helpful for students who are learning computer programming.
An ongoing class project is having the students work together as a team to design a virtual pinball table. It will not literally be a real pinball table, but one showing up on a computer screen with buttons on the side to propel the pinballs.
Power Up is a class for juniors and seniors. No classes are required as a prerequisite. “They (students) just need an interest in electronics or programming,” O’Connell said.
Space is limited in a small room in the Pathways Welding Technology Center so O’Connell hopes a new facility can be found soon.