Tech’s ICAT helps kids go high tech for Halloween
BLACKSBURG — Jack-o’-lanterns have taken many shapes and forms in recent years, but the Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology at Virginia Tech appears to have taken these pumpkins to the next level.
Activated by motion, ICAT’s “interactive digital jack-o’-lanterns” lit up and made “scary” sounds as more than 75 children ages 5-12 from the New River Valley came to STUDIOne dressed in their Halloween costumes Tuesday night to celebrate Tech-or-Treat.
ICAT Director Ben Knapp said the event was designed to create a Halloween-themed, family-friendly environment where children would be exposed to science, technology, engineering and math.
“ICAT is all about getting kids involved in STEM,” Knapp said. “What better way is there than to get them to do something fun and let them interact with technology and science at the same time?”
The event allowed trick-or-treaters to participate in “spooky” technology-based stations set up by Tech graduate and undergraduate students from a variety of disciplines from arts and technology.
The “shadow theatre” allowed children to use the art of story-telling along with computer science and lighting technology to tell stories using puppets.
Children could play an interactive video game to win candy. Every station at Tech-or-Treat gave children the opportunity to explore one of the areas of STEM.
Tech English professor and poet Erika Meitner collaborated with more than 50 children at the event on a poem using a style called “exquisite corpse,” in which participants contribute a line of poetry while only seeing one or two preceding lines of the poem.
Jett Bingley, a sixth-grade student at Blacksburg Middle School, said he liked the event because he’s a big fan of technology and enjoyed having to work hard to beat games in order to get candy.
Christiansburg resident Tiffany Sherman said she came to the event with her two children because it was free and offered a different spin on typical Halloween activities.
“My kids seemed to have really enjoyed this event,” Sherman said.
“I took them to a couple of events [Monday], and they lost interest fast. This is so different, and they really like it,”she said.
Sherman admitted she isn’t technologically savvy and hoped exposing her kids to technology at an early age would help them in the future as they work their way through school.
Knapp has the same hope.
“As they go to school and start seeing things like math and science, they’ll remember back to that fun thing they did,” Knapp said.
“Hopefully, these things will all eventually blend together for them.”
This event, Knapp said, is a preparation for what’s to come in the future as ICAT moves into Tech’s Center for theArts.
This year is about trying things out to see what works and what doesn’t, he added.
Knapp said ICAT is already planning to have another event similar to Tech-or-Treat in the spring where students will be able to participate in an egg hunt using technology.
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
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