Remarks to the WV Board of Education

Last year we attended the West Virginia Board of Education meeting to introduce them to the Satellite Network. This September we returned to to update them on the Network's activities in West Virginia over the last year

The people in the group photo, from left to right, are: Karen Savitz ASSET STEM Education, Jeffrey Carver West Virginia University, Jessica Meyers ASSET STEM Education, Rachel Hite CREATE Lab, Lou Karas West Liberty University, Dror Yaron CREATE Lab, Carrie Beth Dean Marshall University, Stan Maynard Marshall University

I’m Lou Karas, Director of the Center for Arts & Education at West Liberty University. I’m here today with my colleagues from the CREATE Lab Satellite Network. With me are Dror Yaron and Rachel Hite from the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University; Stan Maynard and Carrie Beth Dean from the Harless Center at Marshall University; Jeffrey Carver from the College of Education and Human Services at West Virginia University and Jessica Meyers and Karen Savitz from ASSET STEM Education.

Last fall, professor Illah Nourbakhsh the Director of CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute shared with the you the story and vision of the CREATE Lab and its Satellite Network.

We’re here today to give you a brief update on the work of the CREATE Satellite Network in West Virginia.

Update on the work of the CREATE Satellite Network in West Virginia

Over the past year, the satellite partners have worked, throughout WV with over 1,200 children, Pre-K through 12th grade and more than 700 educators, both teachers in the field and pre-service students at the three universities.

We are empowering a technologically fluent generation through experiential learning opportunities in and outside of school. The technology is the raw material, a tool for a child to use to explore and address real world issues, to learn - and communicate - about their own environment and perspective.

We’ve been able to take new technology tools from the desk of an engineer at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute to the hands of a child in rural West Virginia, making them among the first to gain access to these innovations.  Each of the Satellites not only provides training on the use of these technology tools but also, in many instances, is also able to lend the tools to teachers throughout the state.

Over the past three years the CREATE Lab Satellite Network has grown from a partnership between the CREATE Lab and the school of education at Marshall University, to a network including Marshall, West Liberty, West Virginia University, and Carlow University as well as ASSET STEM Education. Each Satellite team adapts and uses the CREATE Lab innovations in a locally meaningful way with the educators and future educators they support. Similarly, working closely with the CREATE Lab, the Satellites bring their communities’ needs to bear on the technology innovation process.

As the Satellite Network model of outreach is gaining traction and in light of its rapid growth, we recognize now is an appropriate time to invite more perspectives and stakeholders to the table, as we consider how to meaningfully direct and leverage the momentum and resources at hand. This has resulted in the formation of an advisory board that will meet for the first time later this fall at West Liberty.

Our work with children has focused on using four of the CREATE Lab technologies:

Message from Me

Message from Me enables young children to better communicate with their significant adults about their daytime activities at early childhood programs through the use of digital cameras, microphones, e-mail, phone messaging and other technologies. Originally developed using adapted computer kiosks, the program now uses an app developed for the i-Pad.

The Harless Center has been at the forefront of using Message from Me in their Pre-K classroom and sharing their experiences with others around the state.

The Children’s Innovation Project

The Children’s Innovation Project takes a broad interdisciplinary and integrated learning approach, focusing on creative exploration, expression and innovation with technology. Children explore and learn about electricity through hands-on engagement with a kit of components designed for young hands. Utilizing this learning, children disassemble toys, identify components and then repurpose and reconfigure these internal components into new circuits, empowering them with new relationships and understandings of their world.

The Harless Center has also taken the lead in the use of the Children’s Innovation Project in West Virginia schools. In addition ASSET and Carlow University are developing professional development programs, which will be shared with the Satellite partners for their use.

Arts & Bots

The third program is Arts & Bots. The Hummingbird robotics kit is designed to enable engineering and robotics activities for ages 10 and up that involve the making of robots and kinetic sculptures built out of a combination of kit parts and craft materials. Hummingbird provides a great way to introduce kids to robotics and engineering with construction materials that they are already familiar with. Hummingbirds have been used in nearly every aspect of the curriculum: teachers and students have completed Hummingbird units in science, art, math, history, english, drama, poetry, and character education classes. The kits have also been used in numerous summer camps, after-school programs and other community-based environments.

The CREATE Lab had been awarded a three-year $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant to support the “Creative Robotics” project, an innovative program that introduces robotic technology into non-technical middle school classes. It is the intent of the research project is to identify and nurture students with an affinity for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

All 7th and 8th grade students at Springdale Junior-Senior High School in the Allegheny Valley School District outside of Pittsburgh and all 6th, 7th and 8th grade students in the Mingo County Schools — a total of 900 children annually — are using the robotic kits developed at Carnegie Mellon University. They will use the kits to complete at least one project or assignment each year in required courses such as health, earth science and language arts.

The project also includes faculty members and pre-service educators in the schools of education at Marshall and West Liberty universities. We are working with CMU researchers to develop the curriculum and integrate the project into both existing and new courses for our students.


GigaPan is an earthly adaptation of NASA’s Mars Rover imaging technology - GigaPan helps bring distant communities and peoples together through images that have so much detail that they are, themselves, the objects of exploration, discovery, and wonder. Using a small robotic device, point and shoot camera, stitching software, interactive online platforms and large-scale prints, GigaPan is enabling people to explore, experience, and share each other's world.

West Virginia University is working with North Elementary School in Morgantown, to train the teacher to both use gigpan images as well as generating their own gigapan images.  The technology integration of Gigpan is being conducted in and around the Garden Based Learning project at the school.  The ability to take super high resolution images during the garden growing season and then utilizing those images during the non-growing months in the winter allows teachers to extend the garden based learning curriculum through the non-gardening months.

At West Liberty, we have incorporated learning how to use the GigaPan images and technology into several courses in the professional education program. We are also working with the art teachers in Ohio County Schools supporting them in the integration of GigaPan into their classrooms.

A key focus of the Satellite Network is to provide professional development opportunities for both teachers in Pre-K through 12th grade settings around the state –and- for our pre-service students

We have presented at conferences throughout the state included the West Virginia Technology conference and the West Virginia Art Education Association conference. The partners have provided opportunities ranging from GigaPan workshops lasting a few hours to weeklong Creative Robotics programs. It is important to note, that these programs are only the beginning of our work with teachers. Each Satellite provides on-going support to the teachers.

We are emphasizing the integration of the CREATE Lab resources into pre-service education because we believe it is important for our future teachers to learn these skills and technologies throughout their undergraduate years so they will be fully prepared to integrate them into their classrooms. ASSET, as our newest partner, will be involved in the expansion of this work.


I would like to acknowledge the amazing work done by Debbie Workman, Carrie-Meghan Quick Blanco and Cathy Walker. They devoted countless hours building the programs and services of the first Satellite site at the Harless Center. Over the summer, Debbie and Cathy retired and Carrie-Meghan moved on to another position. Their enthusiastic support has helped the other two Satellite sites get off the ground.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the support of Benedum Foundation and Jim Denova.  Jim has not only provided financial support for our work but has also shared connections and given us guidance as we expand the Network’s programs and services.

Looking ahead

next spring, The CREATE Lab Satellite Network and The Sprout Fund are partnering to present the first annual Creative Tech Conference: Best Practices of Creative Technology in Education on April 21 through the 23 in Pittsburgh. The Creative Tech Conference will ignite productive dialogue and spur the exchange of ideas about the use of creative technologies (or creative use of technologies) in education, teaching, and learning.  

The conference will feature two tracks of programming: Practice and Ecosystems. The Practice track will feature educators sharing ideas and stories around their methods and experiences with integrating technology creatively and successfully into their classrooms and programs. The Ecosystems track will focus on discussions about the networks and conditions that support and empower meaningful technology practice in education. We hope you will consider joining us for the conference.

In the mean time, we also invite you to visit us at Marshall, West Liberty and WVU to see the work of the CREATE Lab Satellite Network in action this school year.

Thank you,

Lou Karas, Director of the Center for Arts & Education at West Liberty University.