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Morton East Students Win Big at Programming and Engineering Event

Please take a minute to read this remarkable story describing the persistence, hard work, and great brilliance our students possess:

On November 5th a group of eight Morton students attended an overnight programming and engineering event at Northern Illinois University. Upon arrival, other students were already working on their projects and we realized we had nothing. We broke into two groups and designated team members to go shopping at a thrift store. We spent about $50 on ridiculous items that included a blender, a hair drier, a hand held vacuum cleaner, a cake pops oven, a self-propelled toy car, a fishing reel, a cheap light set, a battery operated drill, an old clock radio, and some pulleys and string. Our initial concept was we would take these items apart and somehow reassemble them into something remarkable. We quickly dismissed this idea because we had no tools. The event did supply a few hardware devices and with a few Arduino kits the kids came together with an idea, which evolved into their project, the Smart Home Appliance Detector (S.H.A.D.). The students divided responsibilities and tested digital devices that sense sound, vibration, heat, and light. Once they gathered data pulled from the bizarre assortment of small appliances they purchased, they programmed the Arduino to send digital text messages to a display board. Meanwhile the competition had their robots or virtual reality setups. At least half of the other competitors were university students. Some coming from University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota, and of course Northern Illinois University. There were also several students from affluent high schools in the area. The students worked throughout the night in an auditorium setting. When other students were goofing around, our kids were working. They had the attention of the whole competition with their roaring blender, howling vacuum cleaner and other eclectic items. At 7:58 a.m. that morning they were submitting their project electronically and ultra-slow down loading caused them to be disqualified for not meeting an 8:00 a.m. deadline. I let them appeal to the judges on their own behalf and after 45 excruciating minutes of deliberation while believing that all of their maximized efforts were a waste of time, a submission extension was rightfully granted and their project was accepted. Another three hours of judging and waiting. Finally awards were being presented, groups were identified for excellence in 14-15 areas ranging ideas in healthcare to educational innovations. Sitting, hoping, and believing they weren’t worthy we witnessed a multitude of awards and now it was time for the top three best in show. Exhausted and having lost faith, they listened to first the third and then the second place winners. Now it was time for the winners. Kids from all the schools were pounding on their tables to simulate a drum roll and Morton’s team was called out. There was hesitation because they couldn’t believe what they just heard: “FIRST place, BEST IN SHOW, (Morton East) S.H.A.D.” In just a few hours they had gone from having their hearts broken to being recognized as leaders in innovation. Please join us in congratulating seniors Arileny Chavarry, Gilberto Pineda, Alondra Corro, and junior Luis Vazquez for their amazing accomplishment.